In case you haven’t heard, the Indians’ starting rotation has struggled in 2014.
Collectively, the Tribe’s starting five has an ERA of 4.48, which ranks 25th in the majors. The Indians have already used 8 starters this season, and only one — the always-smiling Corey Kluber — can consistently be trusted.
But T.J. House has been inconsistent (but has had a few dominant starts), Justin Masterson is on his every-other-year plan (this season is his bad one), Zach McAllister struggled before landing on the DL, and Danny Salazar has struggled as well — in the majors and at Triple-A Columbus (though he had a terrific start yesterday for the Clippers).
But what if I told you that a viable starting option for the Indians is right in their backyard at Columbus? (Cue the meme of Morpheus from The Matrix.)
No, it’s not Braxton Miller.
His name is Travis Banwart.
If you follow me on Twitter, you’ve probably seen a tweet or two about my admiration of Banwart. So far in 2014, Banwart has done a solid job for the Clippers, going 5-2 with a 3.12 ERA (3.99 FIP) in 89 1/3 innings for Columbus, striking out 78 and walking 33 over that time.
The 28-year old Banwart was originally drafted by the Athletics in the 4th round of the 2007 draft out of Wichita State. The Indians signed him to a minor league contract last offseason.
He’s had a lot of success in the minors, but doesn’t have the ridiculous numbers that gain the attention of fans and scouts. He won’t be an ace and doesn’t strike out batters at an elite level, but he’s managed to do everything well enough to emerge as a solid starting option. He doesn’t have a particular strength, but he doesn’t really have a particular weakness, either.
And he’s been terrific over his past few starts.
Sure, a week is a small sample size. But Banwart has pitched well all season, and he only looks to be getting better.
I’m not suggesting that calling up Banwart is the answer to the Indians’ rotation problems, because it would still be a good idea for the Indians to trade for one of the starters available. Besides, Banwart will need to be added to the 40-man roster before he can pitch in Cleveland anyway.
And the Indians could continue to hope for improvement out of the rotation, which is fair. Most of the Tribe’s starting options have shown sustained success before in the majors, and with the way some of them are struggling, improvement isn’t out of the question.
But nonetheless, another option or two is still needed. A fresh arm on the mound could go a long way. Even in a spot start, Banwart has done everything he needs to for a promotion.
The Indians need starting pitching. Travis Banwart is pitching well for Columbus.
Is there a match?
There should be.