With the literal departures of two former Cy Young winners and the mental loss of a former Cy Young candidate, the Indians have been searching for a new ace of what has become a much maligned pitching staff.
Currently, Cliff Lee is dominated the National League scene with the Phillies. Lee’s presence immediately vaulted the defending World Series Champion Phils’ into this year’s race…as if they weren’t already in it. Philadelphia was having their way with NL East foes Atlanta, Florida, and New York anyway, but the addition of Lee solidifies them as the team to beat in the National League…not the Dodgers.
The midseason trade of C.C. Sabathia to Milwaukee last year paved the way for Matt LaPorta’s arrival in the lake city, but also brought the Brewers back into the discussion of relevant baseball teams. The Brewers made a trip to the postseason for the first time since 1982. Sabathia ultimately pitched himself into the NL Cy Young discussion, despite throwing for only the latter half of the season with Milwaukee. Now Sabathia is a big part of the Yankees rise to dominance in the American League East as the club has seemingly pushed Boston aside; whether this will remain true throughout the postseason remains to be seen.
Then there is the curious case of Fausto Carmona. After going 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA in 2007 and factoring heavily in Cleveland’s 2007 AL Central Championship, he has almost fallen completely off of the map. Carmona finished 4th in the 2007 Cy Young vote for the American League, trailing only Josh Beckett, C.C. Sabathia, and John Lackey. A $15 million contract extension later, and Carmona has been bounced around the minors (including the rookie leagues) to find the sinker that made him so dominating. He was seen on Sunday pitching the Indians to a 6-1 win over the Seattle Mariners, however, the groundball-inducing sinker had nothing to do with this performance as the pitcher suddenly became a strikeout artist.
With the loss of these three dynamite pitchers, Aaron Laffey (7-3, 3.42) has slowly pieced together a solid 2009 season. After continuously being thrown to the scrap heap by fans (myself included) for consistently pitching inconsistent, Laffey has established a 3-0 record with a 2.00 ERA in his last four starts. Laffey toes the rubber tonight at Baltimore against rookie-righthander David Hernandez (4-6, 4.35). The Indians have quietly played solid baseball since dismantling the roster people actually paid to see, and the development of Aaron Laffey is one of the prime reasons.
As more eyes in Cleveland observe the 24-year old lefty, Laffey will undoubtedly deal with added pressure. While a win tonight against a lowly Orioles team doesn’t make for much these days, it can help Laffey secure one of the top spots in the rotation next year for a team begging for some leadership in the pitching department.