The Cleveland Indians’ 2013 rotation is pretty much set: Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Brett Myers, and (probably) Zach McAllister figure to fill out the first four slots. But two weeks into Spring Training it’s still anyone’s guess who the final member of the quintet will be. So in this edition of the Weekly Wroundtable, we asked our panelists: Who will (not necessarily should) be the Tribe’s fifth starter?
Evan Vogel: Who will be the Indians’ No.5 starter? I guess you have to assume that Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Brett Myers, and Zach McAllister are penciled in, but what happens if Jimenez continues to look lost or an injury occurs in the next few weeks?
It doesn’t really matter who the No.5 starter is, but the fact that the Indians have so many pitchers vying for the spot that makes the job so impressive. Daisuke Matsuzaka, Scott Kazmir, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer are the top candidates, while David Huff, Fernando Nieve, and Giovanni Soto could get some looks in Surprise, as well.
It’s a good “problem” to have but I expect Carlos Carrasco to lock down the job due to his stuff and newfound health, while Matsuzaka and Kazmir adjust to the life of Triple-A, showing Bauer the ropes for a couple of months before requesting their release.
Nick Houghtaling: While I think it should be Scott Kazmir—I like his potential based on how he looked in the past, and he’s only 29—it will probably end up being Daisuke Matsuzaka. His past relationship with Francona is the main thing that makes me believe we’ll see Dice-K win that spot. It’s not difficult to imagine a healthy Matsuzaka as a fifth starter in the league if he can perform like he did during his pre-injury years in Boston. It’s a wide-open race at this point and I think Kazmir, Matsuzaka, Carrasco and Bauer all have a good chance at making the rotation.
The rest of Spring Training games may provide some insight into exactly who that fifth starter should be. But all of these guys have huge question marks, and it’s much more likely the rotation will be in constant flux all year due to a lack of consistency.
Steve Kinsella: The Indians’ fifth starter will more than likely be Matsuzaka or Kazmir with a slight edge going to Matsuzaka. Neither Carlos Carrasco or Scott Kazmir have faced major league bats in significant time. Carrasco is facing a six-game suspension and will have to have his innings monitored during the year; therefore, starting him in Triple-A allows him to ramp up and allows the Indians the opportunity to look for the best time to add him to the big league roster where the suspension will not impact the team. As for Scott Kazmir, the batters he faced in the Independent League, the Winter League, and many of the hitters he’ll see this spring are not enough of a barometer for me to hand the ball to him every fifth day hoping he’s figured it out. Although AAA hitters are not the best hitters in baseball they usually have a good mix of guys with plenty of major league plate appearances mixed in.
Merritt Rohlfing: I feel like, considering he’s got a history with Francona and what his competition is, Daisuke Matsuzaka is going to be the Indians fifth starter. Even if I don’t relish the idea of a Red Sox vs. Yankees-esque timeframe for Dice-K games, he’s probably going to be it. I went to one of his first starts in Boston back in the day, and WEEI gave out signs that had some Japanese character on them, I think it said either strikeout or meatball. The Indians should look into that with WTAM, except the character for speed up. This: スピードアップ. Thanks, Google Translate.
Brian Heise: I’m going out on a limb here and saying Scott Kazmir. While researching for an article I wrote on Kazmir after the Tribe signed him, I was delighted to read reports out of winter ball that he had regained the lost velocity on his fastball and was once again putting hitters away. That’s a great sign for a pitcher who was once one of the more dominant strikeout pitchers in the game and relied heavily on seven different kinds of smoke.
The fact that Kazmir is also still only 29 years old is another intriguing proposition. This isn’t a journeyman pitcher looking for one last shot at glory. This is a pitcher who should still be in his prime. If he has his head on straight, he’s figured out his mechanical issues, and most importantly, if he is finally healthy, then he could become one of the steals of the offseason. Granted, a lot of this has to do with the narrative in play here; a pitcher seeking redemption and looking to regain what he once had. What’s not to like? For that reason, I’ll be keeping a close eye on Kazmir as Spring training wears on.
Lewie Pollis: The Indians don’t seem to want to go with Carlos Carrasco—if they did, they wouldn’t be saying his former rotation spot is vacant—Trevor Bauer seems destined for Triple-A, and David Huff appears to have totally fallen out of the discussion. By process of elimination the frontrunners have to be Daisuke Matsuzaka and Scott Kazmir, and of those two I’d say Kazmir has a much better chance.
The problem with Kazmir—the reason he fell from grace and had to settle for a minor-league deal this winter—is that his once-great “stuff” suddenly vanished in 2009. Now he’s healthy again, and by all accounts he’s got his velocity and command back. Compare that to Matsuzaka, who’s still a work in progress. He might not hold it for long if things go south again, but look for Kazmir to get the nod for the final rotation spot come Opening Day.