Friday night, the Cleveland Indians will commence the second half of the baseball season with a three game series in Oakland, which over the past few seasons has been a house of horrors for the Tribe.
Eli Morgan, Cal Quantrill, and Zach Plesac take the hill against the A’s, which is a bit comforting in that the first two have at least given Terry Francona five solid innings for the most part, and Plesac is the only holdover from the opening day rotation.
Regardless of what happens during these critical first ten games after the break, the Tribe organization would like to get some questions answered for the rest of this season.
Centerfield. Francona has mixed and matched at this position all season long. Bradley Zimmer has played the most games in center (36), followed by Jordan Luplow (22), Harold Ramirez (20), and amazingly Amed Rosario (18).
But Zimmer has shown no offensive ability other than being hit by pitches and stealing bases. He is probably the best defender at the position though. Oscar Mercado was called up a couple of weeks ago, and so far, has done okay at the plate (843 OPS in 35 plate appearances). Is that sustainable?
When can Luplow return? Can he provide another option in the middle of the outfield?
It would be nice if someone could seize the job for the rest of the season. However, we don’t see that happening.
First Base. Certainly, Bobby Bradley is giving the Indians much better production than they received out of the Jake Bauers/Yu Chang platoon. But can the left-handed power hitter provide consistency?
Bradley started out like a house afire, going 12 for his first 32 (.375) with four home runs and 11 RBIs. Then, he went through a stretch where he went 2 for 28, striking out 10 times. In his last 44 at bats, he has 11 hits, four of them dingers.
Hopefully, Bradley can keep the cold streaks to a minimum and even when he’s not hitting balls over the walls, he can contribute offensively by mixing in some base hits and walks. That’s been a problem for him in his career.
Triston McKenzie. If Cleveland is to weather the storm until Shane Bieber and/or Aaron Civale get back, they need McKenzie to step up. The soon to be 24-year-old has had trouble throwing strikes all year long, walking 7.3 hitters per nine innings.
However, he has also struck out 12.4 batters per nine. He returned from AAA last Friday night and threw seven one-hit innings, fanning nine Kansas City hitters. He also set a team record earlier in the season, whiffing eight straight White Sox batters.
The stuff is obviously there. If the young right-hander can repeat his delivery and throw strikes consistently, he can take a huge stride toward being a legitimate starting pitcher in the majors.
And he doesn’t have to throw seven innings allowing just one hit to do that.
Defense. To be kind, the Tribe’s defense to date has been atrocious, and that of course, doesn’t help the pitching staff. Some of the reason for that was putting players in spots they really can’t handle defensively in order to get their bats in the lineup (see Harold Ramirez CF).
But Cesar Hernandez has had a tough go this season, and Amed Rosario still makes people nervous every time a ground ball is hit his way.
Hopefully, this area improves as the season goes on.
No games until Friday is a tough thing for a baseball fan. Hopefully, when play resumes this weekend, the Indians’ can start getting some clarity on these questions.