On Tuesday, the Indians did what many fans felt it was time for them to do: they put starter Justin Masterson on the 15-day DL.
But that wasn’t all the Indians did, as they’ve been busy today.
As a result of Masterson’s sudden ability to kill bullpens with his short starts, the Indians recalled reliever Nick Hagadone from Triple-A Columbus. Hagadone has appeared in 6 games for the Indians this season, and has allowed 2 earned runs across the 3 innings he’s pitched. However, he’s been better at Columbus, and carried a 3.77 ERA (4.11 FIP) in 28 2/3 innings there prior to being recalled.
With the recent move to designate catcher George Kottaras for assignment following the acquisition of outfielder Chris Dickerson from the Pirates, the Indians needed a backup catcher to Yan Gomes. The Indians chose not to give that role to Carlos Santana, which I agree with. He’s been hitting really well since coming off of the DL earlier this season, and it seems as though no longer having to worry about catching helped that.
Instead, the Indians decided on Roberto Perez to backup Gomes. Perez has absolutely slaughtered Triple-A pitching this season (.305/.405/.517) en route to a spot on the International League’s All-Star roster. He deserves his promotion, and our own Ed Carroll even wrote about the possibility of Perez being promoted on Monday.
Perez was not on the active roster or the 40-man roster, and as a result, the Indians optioned outfielder Tyler Holt (who was displaced by Dickerson) to Columbus to clear space on the active roster. They also designated reliever Mark Lowe for assignment to clear space on the 40-man roster.
Holt did not get a plate appearance for the Indians during his brief time in Cleveland, though he did play an inning on defense.
Lowe pitched in 7 games for the Tribe this season, and posted a 3.86 ERA over his 7 innings of work. However, a deeper look at Lowe’s numbers (7.68 FIP, 6.71 xFIP) suggest that Lowe wasn’t anything special in his time with the Indians, and both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference value him at below replacement level. The Indians have tons of relief options in the minor leagues and on the 40-man roster, so Lowe isn’t really a huge loss.
But the most important of the Indians’ roster moves on Tuesday was the decision to place Masterson on the DL. Masterson hasn’t been great (and has been downright awful at times) this season. Giving him an opportunity to rehab his knee (which may or may not be a cause of his struggles in 2014) should definitely help, and with the way he’s been pitching lately, it should help rest the bullpen as well. Masterson has pitched a total of 18 innings over his last 5 starts, including just 2 in Monday’s start against the Yankees.
So far this season, Masterson has a 5.51 ERA in 19 starts, and has only pitched 98 innings over those starts. This season, he’s also allowed 106 hits, 56 walks, 11 hit batters, and he’s thrown 9 wild pitches. Advanced metrics (4.06 FIP, 4.03 xFIP) say he’s pitched better than his ERA, but his mechanics are inconsistent and his command is, well, horrible. He doesn’t look anything like the pitcher that posted a 3.45 ERA (3.35 FIP, 3.33 xFIP) in 193 innings last season and made the All-Star team.
Giving him a few starts off has plenty of benefits for the Indians: the Indians don’t have to see Masterson on the mound for a few more starts (the earliest he can come off the DL is July 23rd), Masterson will get more time to rehab and work on his mechanics in an effort to regain last season’s form, and the Indians will be able to give someone else a chance in the starting rotation before the Trade Deadline. If the starter the Indians promote pitches well, he could either increase his trade value if the Tribe chose to include him in a deal or he could decrease the need for the Indians to trade for a starting pitcher.
The Indians don’t need another starting pitcher until Saturday against the White Sox, and two candidates for that start would be Zach McAllister and Danny Salazar. I wish I could add Travis Banwart to that list, but unfortunately, life can be disappointing sometimes. (I’ll get over it, guys. I promise.)
McAllister has been great in 6 starts with Columbus this season, and currently sports a 2.23 ERA (2.76 FIP). Over his 6 starts, he’s pitched 36 1/3 innings, and his ability to pitch at least 6 innings per start would be a great help to an already-overworked Indians bullpen.
Salazar, meanwhile, has a 4.93 ERA in 8 starts for the Clippers, although that’s somewhat misleading. He also has a 3.96 FIP over that time, and he’s improved his peripherals — he’s striking out even more batters than usual (which is saying something), and he’s walking fewer as well. He’s still allowing home runs, but has improved in that department as well. He’s also pitched well recently, and is continuing to look more like how he did in 2013. Salazar has only pitched 42 innings in his 8 starts for the Clippers, but he had a few bad starts earlier this season, and removing those makes his numbers look even better.
In the meantime, hopefully Masterson can return to form. If he can, it will be a huge boost to the Indians’ rotation, which could certainly use one. The trade market isn’t exactly overflowing with exciting starting pitchers, and if the Indians can find improvement from their rotation without having to overpay for someone in a trade, that would be a major help to the Indians.