Remember Brett Myers?
You know the guy. Pitched so poorly his first couple of times out that we speculated here at Wahoo’s on First that he was hurt, then it turned out he actually was hurt. He’s been on the DL since April 21, and he is still in too much pain to begin a throwing program. Still, they have done their due diligence and seem confident that there is no structural damage to his arm, so we can assume that sometime in the next month Myers will be healthy enough to pitch again.
This opens a thorny issue: who gets pulled from the starting rotation when Myers is healthy?
When Myers went on the DL, the rotation as a whole was performing so poorly that we all assumed he would land right back in the role of #3 starter as soon as he was ready. Now, though, the Indians are on a two-week roll in which nearly every game has featured a quality start, and it is difficult to justify pulling anyone from the rotation in favor of a guy with an ERA north of 8. It is probably a given that Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez are in the rotation to stay, and given Jimenez’ most recent starts, that is as it should be. Zach McAllister is currently 13th in the American League in ERA (don’t even try to say you saw that coming) and, more importantly, has shown a level of command that indicates he has figured out how to pitch. The jury is still out on Scott Kazmir, but in his last start his stuff was electric, and there is no way the Indians would give up on him unless everything goes south. That leaves Corey Kluber, who began the year as the guy designated to shuttle between Columbus and Cleveland at a moment’s notice, but who has yet to have a bad start.
Assuming this good pitching continues, it would be risky to pull any of these guys in favor of Brett Myers. Even if someone gets hurt or slumps, Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco are pitching well enough at Columbus that they may be better options than Myers. Granted, Myers has been a trooper, trying to pitch through a sore arm, and it kind of sucks if he comes back and they don’t give him his spot back. Also, he is making $7-million, so putting him in the bullpen would look like an expensive mistake. But, realistically, at his best Myers is probably a replacement level starter, so if he goes into the rotation the odds that he will be significantly better than whoever he replaces are slim.
Myers has an extensive history of pitching well in relief, and he should be able to give the Indians two or three innings in relief in the situation calls for it, which should allow the other relievers to remain fresh. A strong arm like Myers in the pen will be more valuable when the Indians go back to a 12-man staff; otherwise they will be forced to release Jason Giambi, which would be a major surprise given his performance and the way Terry Francona feels about him.
Even if Myers goes to the pen, it will probably dislodge someone who deserves to stay, assuming Vinnie Pestano comes back soon. There are currently seven guys in the bullpen with ERAs under 3.00, and all of them are striking out more than one man per inning, which indicates the ERAs are not a fluke.
Scott Barnes was shipped out soon as Bourn came back, but two more guys would need to be demoted to make room for Pestano and Myers when they are ready (even if Myers goes to the rotation, my hunch is they will keep Kluber on the Major League roster for long relief; he has simply pitched too well not to). Perez, Pestano, Smith, and Shaw should be secure. Rich Hill seems to be a Francona favorite, and has performed well in the lefty-vs-lefty match-ups that managers seem to feel are great strategic moves.
That would leave Cody Allen, Nick Hagadone, and Matt Albers for one spot. Allen would certainly seem to be the favorite if things remain as they currently are. It would be nice to see Hagadone remain on the major league roster long enough to show what he can do; he certainly has the stuff to be a dominant reliever. If the bullpen depth remains a strength into June and July the Indians should be in a strong position to make a trade that strengthens them in other areas.