Should Justin Masterson start or close?


This has likely been one of the top three questions asked by most Cleveland Indians fast this year, and it’s not one that’s easily answered. Looking at Masterson’s game log is reminiscent of riding any Ceder Point roller coaster, just not as fun.

Masterson came out of the gates at least resembling a decent starter. In his first three starts, Masterson went 0-2, but only gave up five earned runs in 15 innings pitched. Over the next seven starts,including the complete month of May, Masterson would give up 30 runs in 38 2/3 innings. His ERA would balloon to over 6 at one point, and most assumed it was time to move him to the pen, or even to Columbus. AT 0-5 with a 5.87 ERA, something had to be done.

Then Masterson took another turn. He would go 2-0 in his next two starts, including a complete game, two-hit shutout. In 14 2/3 innings, he gave up seven hits and one run, while striking out seven. His ERA would drop a complete run, and Masterson seemed to turn a corner. Why? He did this against the White Sox and the Red Sox.

Masterson would sandwich two bad starts around a decent one over his next three appearances. In the two bad appearances, he would go 0-2 in 12 innings, while giving up 12 runs and 16 hits. In the good appearance, he gave up two runs on five hits, while walking one and striking out seven in a no decision.

Finally, on July 1st, Masterson went 8 1/3 innings, giving up only one run on eight hits. He struck out five without giving up a walk in getting his third win of the year.

Masterson is still terrible at getting lefties out. They are hitting .314 against Masterson this year, and until he figures out how to consistently pitch to left-handed hitters, he won’t be a top-tier starter.

So the question remains, is it worth the ride while we wait for Masterson to figure things out?

Maybe the better question is who is going to take his place? Jeanmar Gomez is 6-7 with a 5.46 ERA. A closer look shows that Gomez is 3-0 over his last four starts, with a stellar 1.03 ERA. Still, do you want to bring up a guy who’s finally figured things out after struggling all season? Yohan Pino is 7-4 with a 5.38 ERA. As hot as Gomez has been, is as cold as Pino is. He has a 6.50 ERA over his last ten games. Carlos Carrasco is 7-3 with a 4.22 ERA. Carrasco also has struggled a bit recently, but the Indians may be antsy in getting a look at the young righty.

The most intriguing of the Columbus starters is Josh Tomlin, who is 7-2 with a 2.66 ERA He’s been solid over his last four starts, and really all season long. Unfortunately for the Indians, and for Tomlin, is the fact that Tomlin was recently charged with assault . I’m not an expert, but I’m guessing that Mark Shapiro and Chris Antonetti aren’t looking for that kind of press.

So there are your choices. Sure, Masterson may ultimately end up in the bullpen, especially with Alex White, Kelvin De La Cruz and Nick Hagadone on the horizon. But right now, there just aren’t any better options. Top that off with the potential trades of Jake Westbrook and even Fausto Carmona, and you have too many holes with not enough Indians on the reservation to fill them.

So it appears as though we’ll be riding the roller coaster known as Masterson at least until the end of the season, if not longer. And you know what? He just might turn into the next great ride in Northeastern Ohio.

Something tells me the Masterson chronicles are just getting started.

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