For the 7th time in 18 starts, Justin Masterson failed to go five innings on Tuesday night in Los Angeles, as the 6’6″ right-hander lasted all of three innings while being rescued by the Indians’ offense in a 10-3 Cleveland win. Unfortunately, Masterson’s failure to go deep into games continue to lead to the overuse of the Tribe bullpen, as Masterson is helping pave the way to the Indian’s ranking third (behind the Rays and Rockies) in relief innings (272 innings) after Tuesday’s implosion.
With Masterson, it isn’t just the early exits that is troubling, it’s the inability to get the opposition out. He has allowed five runs or more eight times and he has allowed opposing hitters to put up a .270/.376/.414 triple-slash, while Masterson’s ERA has ballooned to 5.16 in 2014. While the BABIP is inflated (.339) and the FIP suggests that Masterson could bounce back slightly (3.96), it is fair to wonder if he is truly helping Terry Francona and his teammates by going out every fifth day with a right knee injury that has impacted his performance since his second start of the season.
After requiring 85 pitches to record nine outs on Tuesday, the simple solution would be to place Justin Masterson on the 15-day disabled list. The Indians have Zach McAllister ready to return to Cleveland, and he is on the same schedule as Masterson, having pitched for the Columbus Clippers on Tuesday afternoon (6 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 9 K). McAllister has pitched very well in his five starts in Triple-A, posting a 2.08 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP over 30.1 innings. Most encouraging is the five walks in his five starts, including just two over his last 20.1 innings (three starts), which would be a welcome addition to the control woes that Masterson has presented, if even just for two or three starts.
T.J. House seems to have secured the fifth spot in the rotation, based on recent comments by Francona, and with Josh Tomlin‘s masterful performance in Seattle on Saturday night, there isn’t another spot to clear for McAllister, especially with Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber pitching so well. The logical choice would be to give Masterson some rest, giving him two weeks off, and allowing him to return after the All-Star break. If the Indians put the right-hander on the disabled list today, he would be eligible to return July 17th, and he could be lined up to start the first game after the break, July 18th, in Detroit against the Tigers. With Corey Kluber likely earning a spot on the All-Star roster this season, they’ll need someone to be ready to roll after the break, and with some time off, Masterson could be that guy.
Injury or not, Justin Masterson hasn’t been effective or all that useful to the Cleveland Indians in 2014. After contract talks broke down this spring, Cleveland management has to be pleased with their decision, or lack thereof, in not locking up Masterson prior to reaching free agency after this season. Masterson and his camp have to hope that he gets some sort of semblance of the 2013-Masterson or he will have to settle for a lackluster deal, but Cleveland hopes that he can re-establish himself as a valuable piece in the rotation for their own benefit. For the time being, he is better off anywhere but on a mound in an Indians’ uniform.