Shaking Things Up
The Indians began the month of June by losing 12 of their first 17 games. They wrapped up a 2-7 road trip by getting swept in Milwaukee, then came home and got blown out by the Chicago Cubs 12-8. The following day Indians General Manager Mark Shapiro shook up the Tribe’s clubhouse by making several roster moves.
Starting pitcher Jason Johnson, who hadn’t won a game since April 23rd, was designated for assignment and reliever Jeremy Guthrie was sent back to AAA Buffalo. RHP Edward Mujica, who didn’t give up a single run at AA or AAA was called up to take Guthrie’s spot in the bullpen. Joe Inglett was also called up and will give Manager Eric Wedge flexibility because he can play 2b, SS, left or center field.
The biggest move won’t take place officially until Sunday when LHP Jeremy Sowers makes his major league debut against Cincinnati. Sowers was taken with the 6th overall pick in the 2004 draft and was named the Indians minor league pitcher of the year on ’05. He will arrive at the big league level faster than anyone could have anticipated. Sowers has been described as a "cerebral" pitcher who has a great "feel" to pitch. What does that mean? When CC Sabathia arrived at the big league level in 2001 he was more of a "thrower" than a "pitcher". Sabathia relied on his 97 mph fastball to get him through his Major League indoctrination. Sowers doesn’t have a blazing fastball so he has developed his off speed pitches and has an excellent ability to locate those pitches. He also has a great understanding of how to attack hitters by exploiting their weakness.
Shapiro cautioned that no one should expect Sowers to carry the team on his back. There is always a transition period for any young player making their first foray into the big leagues. The hope with Sowers is that transition won’t take nearly as long as it has with others. The bottom line is that Jason Johnson wasn’t going to get any better and with Sowers you have a pitcher that could be a permanent fixture in the Tribe’s rotation for years to come. It also shows you how desperate teams in contention are for starting pitching when the Boston Red Sox traded for Johnson the day after he was deemed expendable by the Tribe.
Eric Wedge has also intimated that other veterans jobs could be at stake if things don’t improve quickly. The Indians aren’t throwing in the towel on the season but, its obvious now they aren’t going to sit around and wait to pull the trigger on more moves to try and get the most out of this season. The Indians traded Coco Crisp in the off season to acquire a third baseman for the future in Andy Marte. He was just named the International League player of the week when he homered in 5 straight games. To a certain extent Sowers forced his way onto the ball club with how well he pitched at Buffalo this year. The time may soon be coming when Marte does the same.