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Indians: Backup Plans If Myers Is Not the Innings-Eater Terry Francona Wanted

Brett Myers was added to the rotation this offseason when Cleveland ownership ponied up for the relief pitcher-turned starter-turned relief pitcher with a one-year, $7 million deal with an $8 million team option for 2014. Myers wanted to start and he’ll have every opportunity to do so in Cleveland.

In 2010 and 2011, the last two years that Myers was a starter, he posted a 21-22 record and 3.79 ERA over 439.2 innings for the Houston Astros. However, in 2012, Myers made 70 appearances and tossed just 65.1 innings between Houston and the Chicago White Sox.

He has made the transition from the rotation to the bullpen once before, having spent the 2002 through 2006 seasons as a starting pitcher in Philadelphia before being moved to the bullpen in 2007, then back to the rotation in 2008. But, what happens if he isn’t the pitcher that the Cleveland Indians were hoping for?

As of right now, the Indians starting rotation will consist of Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Myers, Zach McAllister and Carlos Carrasco, as those are the first five listed on the team’s depth chart on their website.

The team has faced some lackluster performance and injuries in the past, just look at how Jimenez has worked out since being acquired in July of 2011 (13-21, 5.32 ERA), but who are the alternatives for the steady veteran, Myers, if he just can’t do it in 2013?

Let’s take a look at the Cleveland Indians rotation depth.

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Cleveland Indians: What Can Terry Francona Expect from New Indians Pitcher Myers

Brett Myers may not be Zack Greinke, David Price or, even, Justin Masterson, but the signing of a veteran, free agent starter was fantastic news for Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona and the fans of the team.

After a miserable 2012 season from the starting rotation, the third worst ERA among staffs in baseball (5.25 ERA), could things have really gotten any worse for the Tribe starters looking forward to 2013?

With pretty incredible regressions from both Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez, along with a total implosion by Derek Lowe after June 1, which resulted in his release, the Indians had to do something to mix-up the starting five. While Myers is a solid addition, the club still lacks a true, dominant starter, which is troublesome with the Detroit Tigers possessing Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez, any of whom would probably slot into the Opening Day job if they were to join the Indians.

What exactly does Myers bring to the table for Francona, though?

A huge frame. Myers is listed at 6’4″, 240 pounds, a tremendous, ideal frame for an innings-eating starting pitcher. It is a good thing that Myers has that frame, as well, as he has moved from the starting rotation to the bullpen and back to the starting rotation in a couple of instances during his 11-year career.

Reliability. Myers has missed 159 games in his career—from May of 2007 through October of 2009—due to hip surgery and a shoulder strain. Other than those two stints on the disabled list, he has started 30 or more games in seven seasons. Of the four seasons that he did not reach 30 starts, one was his rookie season (12 starts), one was his 2009 season and the other two seasons he was a relief pitcher. He has tossed 190 or more innings in six of his seven full seasons as a starting pitcher (only Masterson did that in 2012 with his 206.1 innings).

A solid track record. Myers is 89-79 with a 4.27 ERA in 249 career starts, averaging more than six innings per start with his 1,560 innings pitched. If the Indians were to fall out of contention or decided to trade Chris Perez, Myers could slide into the closer’s role due to his success out of the bullpen (3.36 ERA and 40 saves in 128 games).

While giving a pitcher that only tossed 65.1 innings over 70 games a $7 million contract and hoping he can throw 200 innings the next year seems crazy, Brett Myers is a gamer, who has filled various roles over his career. He has pitched in the World Series, he has closed games, he has set-up and he has been an ace (finishing 10th in NL Cy Young voting as a member of the Houston Astros in 2010).

Terry Francona and the Indians will hope that Brett Myers is able to handle another transition from the bullpen to the rotation, and if history repeats itself, the Tribe will be rewarded with their gamble.

Myers is a solid No.3 starter who should not be miscast as a savior to the Indians rotation; however, he adds depth to a group that was clearly in need of an upgrade, and if nothing more, Myers will be a solid, innings-eater every fifth day for Terry Francona.

Brett Myers was a bargain at $7 million for 2013, and if he performs well, an $8 million team option for 2014 will be icing on the cake.

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MLB: Cleveland Indians Players Who May Have an Increased Role in 2013

While Jeff Loria and the Miami Marlins have shed incredible amounts of payroll with a firesale that makes your local merchandise liquidation retailer look like a Nordstrom, other teams around the majors seem to be taking the offseason slowly to this point.

After finishing 68-94 in 2012 and doing nothing at the deadline to establish themselves as buyers or sellers, it is anyone’s guess as to what the Cleveland Indians will be doing with the current roster. While there have been rumors related to Asdrubal Cabrera or Shin-Soo Choo being traded, it is quite possible that the Tribe does nothing and focuses on trying to compete with the roster that they currently have.

While the pitching staff struggled in 2012, the Indians will still be led by Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Zach McAllister, if the club stands pat, fans will see some interesting names toeing the rubber at Progressive Field in 2013.

With Travis Hafner finally reaching free agency, the Indians will officially move away from anyone associated with the last generation of Indians’ success. Cabrera, Jason Kipnis, Michael Brantley, Choo and Carlos Santana provide a little bit of hope, albeit with a lot of question marks around the rest of the field.

So, who will the Indians count on in 2013 if they don’t start making any moves? Surprisingly, there is a little bit of hope in the existing names. What can you expect from the players who fill up the remaining 25-man roster?

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6 Keys to Terry Francona’s First Season with the Cleveland Indians

Terry Francona will take over the managerial position for the Cleveland Indians in 2013 after spending one seasons as an analyst for ESPN in 2012. The two-time World Series champion manager of the Boston Red Sox has the credentials, but is there more to success in Cleveland than a resume?

After going 68-94 and finishing 20 games back of the AL Central champion Detroit Tigers, there may be a learning curve and patience needed, not only by Francona, but the fans of the Tribe.

Francona has the accolades to bring immediate excitement to Cleveland, but his 12-year managerial career isn’t filled with fairytale endings. In four seasons in Philadelphia, the Phillies were just 285-363 (.440), falling short of the playoffs and a winning record over his time in “The City of Brotherly Love.” The Boston Red Sox missed the playoffs in three of Francona‘s eight seasons, although his teams never won fewer than 86 games in a season, averaging 93 wins per season.

However, Francona does not have the massive payrolls or the talent in Cleveland that he had in Boston. He does not have the large, passionate fanbase that comes along with Philadelphia. The Cleveland Indians drew just over 1.6 million fans over 81 home games in 2012, 13th out of 14 American League teams, while their payroll was 10th in the AL ($78,430,300).

How can “Tito” thrive in his first season in Cleveland? Can he overcome the failures and collapses that have occurred in the second half the last two seasons?

Here you’ll find several keys to Terry Francona‘s first season in Cleveland.

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Ranking the 8 Indians That Cleveland Must Get Rid of Before 2013

At 64-91 (.413), the Cleveland Indians are the worst team in the American League, sharing the exciting title with in-division rival Minnesota after Cleveland beat the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday. With just seven games remaining, the Tribe is set to finish a season with fewer than 70 wins in a season for the fourth time since 2000.

There are and have been a lot of issues for the Indians throughout the 2012 season. Some of these included: The bullpen, the left-handed lineup, the inability to find a powerful right-handed bat, the unwillingness of ownership and management to make a move to help the team contend, the inability to find leadership to get out of their excessive losing streaks and the inconsistency from players the team was counting on for big things in 2012.

Now, heading into another rebuilding session, the Cleveland Indians have to do some things to shake up the roster. The 40-man roster has a lot of useful names and many more useless names. Highlighted by players set for tremendous pay increases, the Indians have a lot of decisions to make before Opening Day of 2013.

Depending on the direction that management and ownership takes, you could argue with many, many names. I’m taking the path of a complete rebuild, developing talent by acquiring near-ready prospects and making a drastic change to the every-day roster.

While some names could shock you, so has the 20-50 record in the second half. If that hasn’t done the trick, how about the 27-58 record since losing control of first place in the AL Central on June 23 for the final time of the 2012 season.

The fall from grace demands change.

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6 Reasons Cleveland Indians Fans Should Still Watch Them over the Browns

We all know that 2012 is now a lost season, but it isn’t over yet. The Cleveland Indians are two games up on the Minnesota Twins for the worst record in the American League going into Tuesday night’s game against the Detroit Tigers.

Having now compiled a 20-45 record since losing first place on June 24, the Indians’ struggles are enough to make even the biggest, most devoted fans question their relationship with the club. After all, even the oldest Indians fans who were there or remember the 1948 championship are few and far between in the 64 years that they have patiently or angrily waited.

So, with the NFL season officially starting Wednesday night and the Cleveland Browns playing their first game on Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles in Cleveland, what is there that can still make Cleveland Indians fans hang around at Progressive Field, watch eagerly on Sports Time Ohio or listen in to Tom Hamilton on the radio?

Surprisingly, there are several reasons why Cleveland sports fans should still be a part of the remaining 27 games in the MLB season for the Indians. There are even similarities between the Browns and Indians that will surprise you.

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5 Things That Can Salvage the Cleveland Indians’ 2012 Season

The second half of the season has not been kind to the Cleveland Indians. Since the All-Star break, Cleveland is 11-32 with losing streaks of 11 and nine games. They can’t hit (27th in MLB in the second half, .231 team average), they can’t pitch (28th in MLB, 5.30 team ERA) and if it weren’t for the Astros (who are 7-35 since the break), they could be labeled the worst team in baseball since July 13.

There does not seem to be much that the Cleveland Indians can do at this point to salvage the 2012 season. Mathematically, there are reasons to think that they can, but realistically, it is not in the cards.

Sitting 16.5 games out of the AL Central heading into Tuesday’s game against the Oakland Athletics, how can the Cleveland Indians salvage this season?

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MLB: The Cleveland Indians and the 2012 Disaster-Filled Decision Making

I keep waiting for Indians owner Rachel Phelps to come out and admit that she is purposely trying to run the team into the ground so that she can move the club. I also wonder when Ricky Vaughn is going to come out from the bullpen with this thick black glasses, or when Willie Mays Hayes is going to swipe a bag against the Tigers.

Why would I think that and what am I talking about? I am talking about the 1989 movie Major League, of course, where the ridiculous antics of the ownership of the Cleveland Indians is overshadowed by a group of players who become a solid team, not through talent, but through sheer determination—and the opportunity to see the owner naked when a piece of paper was removed from a cardboard cut-out with every win.

The 2012 Cleveland Indians are a lot like the team from the movie. They were not expected to do much this season due to the Detroit Tigers‘ acquisition of Prince Fielder during the offseason, but, for a while, the Tribe sat in first place. Then, the lazy, undetermined management of the club set in.

The Indians have suffered throughout the 2012 season with a total inability to hit left-handed starters. They are 10-23 when they face a left-handed starter this season, and they are 29th in MLB against left-handed pitchers, posting an ugly team slash of .222/.304/.345 in 1,184 at-bats.

The issue is that management knew that this was a problem heading into the season, but they did not address it. On July 31, the trade deadline, the Indians were neither buyers nor sellers, deciding to stand pat with the roster that they had at that moment. They still do not have a third baseman or first baseman that can hit left-handed pitching, and they still do not have a left fielder capable of playing every day and making a difference offensively.

However, here is the most mind-boggling aspect of the non-move prior to the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline: Over the last two days, the Indians have designated both Derek Lowe and Johnny Damon for assignment. Neither will net solid returns, and Damon’s contract did not allow the club to even trade him. But if they were going to mail it in and use younger players like Ezequiel Carrera, Cory Kluber and Chris Seddon, why did they not sell off talent at the trade deadline?

This team is missing so many pieces right now that they are better served to try for 2014 or 2015, moving back the window that the team thought they had going into this season. However, the decision to rebuild after the non-waiver trade deadline makes you wonder if they have any idea what they are doing in the front office.

What difference is there between being 50-56, as they are currently, and 50-52, as they were at the trade deadline? It is not the players they have right now; it is the players that they do not have—the players they need to acquire to matter and the players they need to rebuild with to become a legitimate contender in the AL Central.

The problem with the Cleveland Indians has nothing to do with Justin Masterson getting obliterated in his last two starts, or Grady Sizemore’s back and knees. It has everything to do with the fact that ownership and management has absolutely no clue when it comes to where they are and where they need to be.

So, while we can sit back and watch this season become a disaster, we can look to the fake Cleveland Indians squad from a fictional story and laugh, knowing that they both have something in common:

Ownership is not willing to do what it takes to win.

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Philadelphia Phillies: Grading the Phillies’ Trade Deadline Deals

Last year at the trade deadline, the Philadelphia Phillies were 68-39, six games up in the NL East. This season, the Phils are just 45-57, 16.5 games out in the NL East and 13 games out in the wild-card race.

Needless to say, with the payroll over $174 million, second to the New York Yankees in MLB, expectations were high.

They have not come close to meeting those expectations.

There were several rumors going around, including the potential trade of veteran starters Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay, but Ruben Amaro, Jr. held his cards, hoping to rebuild with his powerful rotation for the 2013 season.

With the deadline came a couple of major trades for Philadelphia. The club was able to acquire some talented young players to build around, while opening up the outfield for young players like Domonic Brown and John Mayberry, Jr.

Let’s take a look at how the Phillies fared on Tuesday.

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Cleveland Indians: Whose Return to the Lineup Is More Important?

This could be the strangest article that I have ever written. Two recently returned players for the Cleveland Indians, neither of which have produced tremendously due to their own inability to do so, or due to injuries are the primary focus. Welcome back, Jack Hannahan and Travis Hafner.

Travis Hafner has been pretty solid in limited time this season. He missed 38 games due to a troublesome right knee, which he had surgery on at the end of May.

Outside of the time lost, Hafner has been somewhat productive, posting a .799 OPS, which has dropped significantly since he has hit .133/.235/.333 in four games since his return.

While he has struggled with an overall .231/.370/.429 line, the fact that he does possess some power and he has great on-base skills creates a lasting value to the aging slugger.

Jack Hannahan was fantastic in April, posting a .290/.375/.403 with 14 RBI in 62 at-bats. Since then, Hannahan is hitting just .215/.277/.323 with four doubles, two home runs and six RBI in 93 at-bats.

His defense, which is supposed to be top of the line, is 10th in MLB among third baseman, just below Toronto Blue Jays youngster Brett Lawrie, with a .949 fielding percentage.

Hannahan has done a great job against right-handed pitchers this season, posting a .288/.342/.413 line in 104 at-bats, but has hit just .157/.271/.235 in 51 at-bats against left-handed pitchers.

Both players present solid skills. Hafner was once a top-notch performer, but has struggled to stay healthy since 2007, missing a total of 237 games since the start of the 2008 season. Hannahan, a defensive specialist, has missed 88 games since September of 2008 due to injury. He may struggle to produce due to his inability to stay on the field, as well.

The Indians have to be excited to have both players back, as they provide solid, veteran presence, if nothing else. With the injury to Lonnie Chisenhall, the need to have Hannahan on the 25-man roster was very necessary, but you have to wonder if he could have been the odd man out when Hafner returned, had Chisenhall not suffered the broken bone near his wrist.

For my money, Hafner is the more important return for the Indians. I would have cut Hannahan when Hafner came off of the disabled list if Lonnie Chisenhall was healthy. Hannahan’s defensive skills are solid, but highly overrated when you factor in his hitting inefficiencies.

Hafner is not going to hit 42 home runs and drive in 117 runs ever again, like he did in 2007, but he has hit .265/.367/.443 with 22 doubles, one triple, 20 home runs and 81 RBI in 472 at-bats since the start of the 2011 season.

Even if Hannhan saved 20 runs per season, he can’t produce the number of runs that Hafner can.

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