Running down the rosters: Cleveland Indians

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Even after giving up their top two pitching prospects for Ubaldo Jimenez, the Indians couldn’t maintain their hot start last year and lost their last four games to finish under .500 at 80-82. The offseason saw them shopping from the scrap heap, which isn’t unusual, but even as they were forced to pick from largely unwanted players, they did well with what they had. Unfortunately for them, they couldn’t answer when the team that finished 15 games ahead of them last year added Prince Fielder.

Rotation
Ubaldo Jimenez – R
Justin Masterson – R
Derek Lowe – R
Josh Tomlin – R
Kevin Slowey – R

Bullpen
Chris Perez – R
Vinnie Pestano – R
Tony Sipp – L
Joe Smith – R
Rafael Perez – L
Dan Wheeler – R
Frank Herrmann – R

Disabled list: Carlos Carrasco (R)
Restricted list: ex-Fausto Carmona (R)
SP next in line: David Huff (L), Jeanmar Gomez (R), Zach McAllister (R)
RP next in line: Nick Hagadone (L), Chris Ray (R), Jeremy Accardo (R), Robinson Tejeda (R)

The addition of Lowe from Atlanta was supposed to give the Indians the most groundball-focused rotation the league has seen in years. The Fausto Carmona situation, however, has taken some of the wind out of those sails, especially since it looks like he’ll be replaced by Slowey, one of the league’s top flyball pitchers. I don’t necessarily think that’s a downgrade, though. In fact, I’m not sure the Indians’ original strategy was such a good idea; they play in a pitcher’s park and their outfield defense figures to be quite a bit better than their infield defense.

The bullpen has two openings, with Herrmann and Hagadone competing against a host of veterans on minor league deals. I’m nervous about Perez in the closer’s role — his velocity is down a bit and his strikeout rate took a big tumble last year — but Pestano rates as maybe the game’s best reliever no one knows about. He can step in if Perez struggles.

Lineup
CF Grady Sizemore – L
SS Asdrubal Cabrera – S
RF Shin-Soo Choo – L
C Carlos Santana – S
DH Travis Hafner – L
2B Jason Kipnis – L
1B Casey Kotchman – L
3B Jack Hannahan – L
LF Michael Brantley – L

Bench
C Lou Marson – R
INF Jason Donald – R
1B/OF Shelley Duncan – R
OF Ryan Spilborghs – R

Next in line: C Matt Pagnozzi (R), 1B Matt LaPorta (R), 1B-3B Russ Canzler (R), 2B Cord Phelps (S), 2B-3B Jose Lopez (R), 3B Lonnie Chisenhall (L), 3B Andy LaRoche (L),
OF Aaron Cunningham (R), OF Ezequiel Carrera (L), OF Felix Pie (L), OF Fred Lewis (L), OF Trevor Crowe (S)

And then there’s the lineup. After re-signing Sizemore and bringing in Kotchman to start over LaPorta, the Indians will be able to go with nine left-handed hitters against right-handed pitching. Of course, things will get dicey against lefties. I think Cleveland might have been better off moving Brantley to center and adding a right-handed bat in Sizemore’s place.

That said, the Indians do deserve a ton of credit for bringing in the winter’s greatest haul in minor league free agency. That “next in line” group is probably the strongest any team can boast, and it gives the Indians plenty of bench options.

My controversial call above is sticking Chisenhall back in the minors. I didn’t want to do it, but the bench works much better that way. A right-handed-hitting backup infielder is a must, whether it’s Donald or Lopez. Hannahan, as a lefty, would be pretty useless as a reserve, but the Indians appear unlikely to cut him after re-upping him for $1.35 million last month. My preference would be for a Hannahan trade, leaving Chisenhall as the starter at third.

The Indians’ chances in 2012 figure to hinge on return to forms from Sizemore, Choo and Jimenez. If two of the three former All-Stars contend for a return to this year’s Midsummer Classic, then the Indians should be capable of winning 90 games and hanging in the playoff race.

And That Happened: Monday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Yankees 3, Rays 0: This was a big game for the Yankees and Masahiro Tanaka came up big, shutting out the Rays on two hits while striking out ten in a complete game performance. D.J. LeMahieu hit a two-run homer and Cameron Maybin had a solo shot. With the win the Yankees up their lead in the AL East to a game and a half.

Angels 10, Blue Jays 5: The Halos put up a seven spot in the second thanks to homers from solo homers from Justin Upton and Kole Calhoun, a three-run homer from Shohei Ohtani and a two-run double from Mike Trout. Trout would add a solo shot of his own in the sixth and got four hits on the day. Cavan Biggio went deep twice for the Jays but one man can’t do it alone. Well, he wasn’t totally alone as Randal Grichuk hit a two-run shot but two men can’t do it alone either, especially when their friends on the pitching staff took the day off.

Reds 3, Astros 2: Luis Castillo allowed two over six — he actually worked into the seventh, allowing only two hits, but walking six — and he was backed by RBI singles from Nick Senzel and Eugenio Suárez. This one featured a nearly one-hour rain delay that gave us this vision of rainbow and lightning:

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Braves 12, Mets 3: Brian McCann, Ozzie Albies and Ronald Acuña Jr. all went deep as the Braves win in a laugher. McCann has been hotter than a two dollar pistol lately, having gone 8-for-16 with four homers and nine driven in in the past week. Albies went 3-for-4 and knocked in four. The Braves have won 10 of 11 and have scored 90 runs in that stretch. That kind of outburst makes it easy for starters like Mike Soroka, who won his eighth straight decision.

Rangers 7, Indians 2: Mike Clevinger came back from the injured list and the Rangers treated him quite rudely, scoring five runs in less than five innings. Danny Santana hit a two-run homer. Meanwhile, his counterpart Lance Lynn allowed one run over seven innings, striking out nine and not walking a batter.

Red Sox 2, Twins 0: Home runs come in buckets these days but we had a good old pitchers duel in Minneapolis last night, with Rick Porcello (7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 8K) outdueling José Berrios (8 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 10 K). A J.D. Martinez RBI single in the first was all the scoring this one saw until the Sox added an insurance run on a Xander Bogaerts RBI double in the ninth. Boston runs its season-high win streak to six straight.

Cardinals 5, Marlins 0: Miles Mikolas and three relievers combine for an eight-hit shutout while Dexter Fowler hit a three-run homer and Matt Carpenter had a solo shot and scored on an error. Mikolas had lost five straight decisions before this one. Miami has been shut out 13 times this year.

Giants 3, Dodgers 2: Tyler Beede held he mighty Dodgers lineup to one run over six despite walking five guys, picking up his first big league win in his seventh big league start. An early Bandon Crawford two-run double and an unearned run in the sixth was all the scoring the Giants needed.

Athletics 3, Orioles 2: Mike Fiers allowed two, both unearned, in six innings of work. The A’s scored two unearned runs themselves, both on the same play. The only earned run in the game came via a first inning double from Matt Olson. The best defense on the day came from this couple in the stands who got two foul balls and didn’t even have to get out of their seats to get ’em:

No one scored after the third inning here. It’s like one of those days when you go into work and finish off some report or something before 9:30 and then spend the rest of the day screwing around on the Internet. Or, as I like to call it “every day at work for me in 2008.”

Padres 2, Brewers 0: All kinds of nice pitching performances last night, including this one from Joey Lucchesi, in which he tossed seven shutout innings, making a run on a wild pitch and a Manny Machado solo homer hold up. The Brewers were shut out on four hits.

Royals 6, Mariners 4: Jorge Soler hit a two-out, two-run homer in the eighth inning to bring the Royals back from a 4-3 deficit and Martin Maldonado hit a ninth inning solo shot for some insurance. Soler somehow has 19 dingers on the season. He’s got ’em pretty quietly, but then again I suppose everything that happens with the Royals happens pretty quietly these days.

Phillies vs. Nationals — POSTPONED:

I stood out in the rain
Holding my breath
Waiting for you
You never came
You broke my heart
You broke my heart
I know who’s to blame
You’re to blame

And I don’t care about you
If you don’t care about me
We can go our separate ways
If you want to
The ties of love are strong
But they can be undone
And we’ll go our separate ways
If you want to