This Monday brings about the third series of the season for the White Sox against the Cleveland Indians. They just so happen to be leading the division, despite the AL Central being betrothed to Detroit at the beginning of the season.
To figure out why Cleveland's been rolling recently, I contacted Matthew Van Wormer of the Indians' blog Did The Tribe Win Last Night, and he sounded pretty pumped about the Indians' recent series win in Texas.
They took a great step in the right direction when they took two out of three from the Rangers this weekend. Everyone picks everyone up. Sure, there are nights where nobody has it going but for the most part, it has seemed like when one part of the lineup struggles, the rest of the lineup excels. Perfect example was against the Rangers on Sunday. The bottom five in the order combined to go 2 for 18 with seven strikeouts against Yu Darvish while the top four hitters went 4 for 12 with just four strikeouts and all the RBI's for the Tribe.
It also helps to have a great bullpen that has seemed to find its 2011 form for the most part.
Potential pitfalls going forward?
Depth is a huge issue with this Indians team. The signing of Johnny Damon was a necessity when the Indians had the slow start but there is still no depth in the outfield until Grady Sizemore comes back in June. The starting pitching has been pretty close to as advertised although Ubaldo, despite an amazing start on Sunday, has struggled with his command and his mechanics early on. I strongly believe that had he not had a good outing on Sunday, there may have been a stint on the 15-Day DL in the near future
Jason Kipnis and Asdrubal Cabrera have been unbelievable so far this year and once Choo gets his head on completely straight, I'm confident he'll get back into his normal form.
Matt then offered his take on a few potential roster battles that could emerge for the Indians over the season
Jack Hannahan vs. Lonnie Chisenhall - 3rd base
Unless Hannahan hits a horrible skid and starts throwing the ball all over the infield, he will be here through the season. He has been red-hot at the plate in clutch situations and his defense really helps keep the infield together. Lonnie has been playing very well in Columbus but that doesn't always translate to the Majors.
Casey Kotchman vs. Matt LaPorta
If LaPorta could hit Major League pitching like he hits AAA pitching, he'd already be here. The problem is, he has done nothing to prove that he can. Plus, while Casey Kotchman has been absolutely gut-wrenching to watch at the plate, his defense is worth so much, they aren't going to swap that out for LaPorta who has never been the defensive gem the Indians hoped he could be.
Shelley Duncan, Johnny Damon, Grady Sizemore, and Aaron Cunningham competing for one outfield spot
Shelley Duncan started off the season on a tear but has cooled considerably. Sizemore hasn't seen an inning of action. Johnny Damon signed a one-year deal. Aaron Cunningham is horrible at the plate and is really around for his defense at this point. None of these players are long-term options at all.
However, with Damon, [Manager] Manny Acta has said that when he plays, he will hit leadoff and so far that has gone pretty well. He's still getting into regular season form as he didn't get a lot of time in the Minors to work his way back completely. If he can stay healthy, I think he can play an integral part on this team in 2012.
What's up with Ubaldo Jimenez?
He's the same Jekyll and Hyde that Fausto Carmona (and he was more Jekyll and Hyde than we all thought!) was in 2011. His dominating starts are few and far between so far. He needs to get consistent, and quick, if he is going to be a starter on a playoff contender.
Was Chris Perez talking to Rios, or is he just a guy who yells a lot after saves?
Chris Perez pumps his fist and yells every time he completes a save. He likes winning and he is very emotional from the time he leaves the bullpen until the time he leaves the mound. Perez didn't say a word to Rios. Rios overreacted big time.
A hearty thanks to Matthew for responding back with answers on short notice, and be sure to check out his work at didthetribewinlastnight.com.
Filed under: AL Central
Tags: aaron cunningham, Alex Rios, asdrubal cabrera, baseball, casey kotchman, chris perez, Cleveland Indians, fausto carmona, grady sizemore, jack hannahan, jason kipnis, johnny damon, lonnie chisenhall, manny acta, matt laporta, shelley duncan, Texas Rangers, ubaldo jimenez, White Sox, yu darvish