Three thoughts on the Indians going into the last week of April

It's been an up-and-down month for the Tribe

James Rapien
April 28, 2019 - 11:58 pm
Apr 15, 2019; Seattle, WA, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Trevor Bauer throws against the Seattle Mariners during the fifth inning at T-Mobile Park. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – The Indians split their four-game series with the Astros over the weekend. They're 15-12 on the season.

They’ve gotten off to a roller coaster start in 2019. Since April 12 they’ve lost three games in a row twice and won three-straight games twice. They’ve struggled at the plate, dealt with injuries and they've had inconsistent pitching from their starting rotation and the bullpen.

The Indians trail the Twins (16-9) by two games in the American League Central. Cleveland has Monday off before they play a two-game series in Miami.

Here are three thoughts on the Indians going into the final week of April:

The starting rotation is still the best in baseball – Trevor Bauer’s ERA is 1.99, which makes him the first Indians player to have an ERA under 2.00 in April (min. 40 IP) since Gaylord Perry in 1974. He’s been dominant and continues to be one of the most interesting players in baseball.

Carlos Carrasco has pitched well in his last three starts. He hadn’t allowed a run in 17-straight innings before Houston scored in the seventh inning on Sunday night.

“He was so good,” manager Terry Francona said after the game. “I know his line is going to say he gave up four, but he was terrific.”

Shane Bieber pitched well on Saturday night, allowing three runs in six innings. The 23-year-old rebounded from his worst start of the season and put the Indians in a position to win the game.

It sounds crazy, but Corey Kluber is the weak link right now. He’s allowed 37 hits and 15 walks in 31 innings. He’s had his issues, but looked better in his last two starts.

If Kluber is your fourth-best starting pitcher and he has been in the month of April, then your rotation is in good hands. How many teams could lose a pitcher like Mike Clevinger, deal with Kluber’s inconsistencies and still have a top rotation in baseball?

The Indians’ starters have had their issues and they’ll have bad starts every once in a while, but there’s no doubt that this is a top rotation in the game, even without Clevinger.

Tyler Clippard will be a difference-maker – The Indians signed the veteran reliever on February 20, hoping that he could give their bullpen a boost. All signs pointed to him making the roster, but he suffered a pectoral strain during spring training. 

That injury put a halt to his chances being with the Indians to start the season. Instead of cutting him loose, they convinced him to get healthy and stay with the organization. Usually an injury to a veteran like Clippard would result in both sides moving on. Instead, they stayed together, which means the Indians believe the 34-year-old can help them this season. 

Clippard went 4-3 last season in Toronto, finishing with a 3.67 ERA and seven saves. He struck out 85, walked 23 and allowed 57 hits in 68.2 innings.

The Indians’ bullpen needs a boost. Nick Wittgren has been impressive, Adam Cimber has showed signs of bouncing back from last season, but they need another arm to emerge.

Clippard made his debut on Saturday night pitching 1.1 scoreless innings against the Astros. The 34-year-old has playoff experience and could have a big impact this season.

He’s pitched for eight big-league teams, including the Yankees and Astros. Clippard could end up becoming the Indians’ setup man. Everyone was focused on Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis and Carlos Gonzalez joining the roster earlier this month and for good reason, but Clippard could end up being one of the Indians’ best offseason additions.

Can we give Luplow a chance? – The reaction to the Indians recalling Jordan Luplow from Triple-A Columbus on Sunday was laughable. The team needed a right-handed bat in the middle of the lineup, so they promoted Luplow and sent Greg Allen back to Triple-A.

Luplow posted a .353 batting average (12-for-34) with 3 doubles, 2 homers and 6 RBI in nine games for the Clippers.

Instead of giving the 25-year-old a chance, fans have completely dismissed the idea that he could be a good player. Luplow has 210 Major League at-bats. He’s still a young prospect, who the Indians need to evaluate. He dominated the competition in Columbus, so promoting him was the next step in the process.

Oscar Mercado is another young outfielder in the Indians’ system. The 24-year-old is hitting .321 with a .418 on-base percentage and two home runs in 20 games for Columbus.

The Mercado fascination has gone too far. He’s gotten off to a great start this season and will likely play at Progressive Field later in the year. Mercado may end up being a great player, but that doesn't mean promoting Luplow was the wrong move.

He went 3-for-15 (.200) in seven games for the Indians earlier this season and fans assume that he can’t play at the Major League level. Who knows if Luplow can be a big part of the Indians’ present or their future, but he deserves a chance to prove himself.

Luplow finished 1-for-3 with a walk in Sunday’s 4-1 loss to Houston. Instead of criticizing the Indians for bringing up the wrong unknown commodity, how about we watch and evaluate the player they did promote?

It’s easy to fall in love with the unknown. Luplow hasn’t been great in the big-leagues, but he’s only played in 72 games. Instead of slamming the door shut on the possibility of him turning into a solid player for the Indians, can we give him a chance to prove himself?