June 3, 2010: Cleveland Indians' David Huff (28) during the MLB baseball game between the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan.

Welcome to Tribe Talk, where Bleacher Report's Tribe fans weigh in on the ups and downs of the Indians each week throughout the season.

 

This week, we wonder if the Indians can find a viable replacement for David Huff in the starting rotation, debate whether there is any merit in keeping Austin Kearns around for the long haul, and cast our votes for AL All-Star game starters, all while wishing we didn't have to watch pitchers bat. 

 

I would like to thank this week's participants Nino Colla, The Coop, and Lewie Pollis for their contributions. This discussion is open to all, so please feel free to comment below and pitch in your thoughts on the questions we're addressing this week.

 

Go Tribe!

 

1. Struggling starter David Huff has been optioned to Triple-A after going a dismal 2-9 in 13 starts. 

This leaves the Indians with a difficult decision to make about what to do with his roster spot. Do you think the Indians should call up Laffey or Carrasco to take the roster spot? 

Would you consider instead calling up a reliever to spell the tired bullpen for a few days and waiting to name a new starter until the team needs one on Friday? 

What do you think will become of Huff? Does he truly have a chance to refine his skills and make it back to the bigs, or are his struggles an indication that he will never succeed a major league starter?

 

 

Samantha Bunten: The Indians were right to call up a reliever for a couple of days before they had to make a decision about the fifth starter. As to what happens after that, ideally, I wouldn't call up either one of them. Neither has shown any indication that they deserve the spot in the rotation. But the Indians have to work with what they've got, so I suppose I would go with Carrasco. 

 

I really like Laffey, but he just doesn't seem to have the stuff to be a viable starter. Laffey has proven that he can pitch very well for a couple of innings, but he starts to fall apart after four or five, and our overworked bullpen can't spell a pitcher every time he starts for half a game. 

 

I don't know if Carrasco can do any better - he certainly didn't look like he could when he was given a shot to do so last season - but the Indians have nothing to lose by giving it a try. We know Laffey can't handle the job. Let's see if Carrasco can. 

 

I still believe Huff can come back from this. He has great stuff, he just can't seem to control it right now. I think he needs to make a mechanical adjustment to his delivery, maybe change his release point. I also think it's possible he's tipping his pitches. These are things that can be corrected, and triple-A is the right place for him to do that. 

 

 

Nino Colla: There will be no consideration, you will see a player called up before the game on Tuesday and it will likely be a reliever, maybe Joe Smith or Jess Todd. The more likely is Todd because it is likely this person called up is sent right back down on before Friday's game. 

 

When the time comes, I think they will pick Aaron Laffey, but that isn't necessarily the choice I'd make. I think the club believes they owe Laffey an opportunity in the rotation after what he did in the spring and how they had to move him into the bullpen. He hasn't been great transitioning into a starting role, but he's been alright and like I said, I think it has more to do with the club wanting to make up for moving him. 

 

I'd pick Carlos Carrasco though because I think it is time to get an extended look at him. I know he hasn't had the greatest season down in Triple-A, like Laffey's small stint, but I'm ready to see what he has in tryout number two. 

 

If the club really wanted to reward the pitcher who deserves a call-up the most, and truly bring up the pitcher that has pitched the best, they'd call up Josh Tomlin. He would require a 40-man roster spot, but he's pitched better than all the other current options the club has and sooner or later, especially if he keeps it up, he's going to require some sort of shot, bullpen or rotation.

 

As for Huff, I think this is a move that is needed. His mechanics are all messed up and the only way to fix it is to work on it in a game setting. He can't be doing that up at the major league level because no one will be able to tolerate that. Since he has the options left, send him down and let him fix his issues there. I think he'll come back and be a better starter for it. I love Huff's stuff, he just has to remain consistent and part of that is fixing his mechanics.

 

The Coop: As I’m writing this, the Indians have made their decisions about how to juggle the pitching staff. Not sure why they didn’t consult me, but I digress…. Actually, it seems if they did consult you, Samantha, by calling up Smith for an extra bullpen arm until Friday, like you suggested. Now all you need to do is figure out how to get these guys to get some hitters out.

 

As you said, the Indians were left with a “difficult” decision. In my view, the reason this decision was difficult was because neither Laffey nor Carrasco exactly dominated at Columbus. Had either one been particularly impressive, the decision would have been easy (and probably would have been made sooner). 

 

Basically, I’m fine with both of these moves. I’m not really sure what other options the Indians had. In some cases, I’m okay with letting a guy work out his issues in the majors, particularly when the team isn’t going anywhere. But when you have guys who have roughly the same talent level, as well as major league experience, hanging out in the minors, making a move is the right thing to do. 

 

I do have hope for Huff. He pitched very well at the end of last season, and I really thought he was turning the corner. Setbacks are common. He’s only 26, and time is on his side. Huff pitches to contact (not a lot of walks, not a lot of strikeouts), so he really needs to focus on how to improve on the little things that will make that pitching style successful. Developing his curveball and learning how to keep hitters off-balance are things that he can do to get better, and indeed, these things are best worked out in the minors.

 

 

Lewie Pollis: I think a trip to Triple-A is just what the doctor ordered for Huff; he really needs to recapture his control and ability to miss bats. 

A look at his strikeouts and walks shows you exactly why he was touted as a prospect yet has floundered in the Big Show. 8.1 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 in the minors, 4.5 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9 in the majors. 

 

He's been a completely different pitcher since he got the call last year, and he needs to rediscover the skills that got him this far in the first place. As for his replacement, why in the world are we getting Aaron Laffey? I'm sorry, but when you follow up a mediocre start to the season by walking almost a batter an inning in Triple-A ("For the most part, he's thrown the ball over the plate," Manny Acta said in a moment of unprecedented thoughtfulness), you don't reward him with a rotation spot over Carlos Carrasco and Yohan Pino. I have nothing more to say.

 

 

2. The Tribe still has six road games left to play against NL teams this week, which is bad news when it comes to the nine-hole in the lineup. 

The Tribe staff is just a terrible group of hitters, even by "pitcher standards". C.C. Sabathia they're not. 

As a manager, is there anything you can do to compensate for the dreaded "easy out"? Do you think the Tribe has enough solid bats off the bench to solve the problem with well-timed pinch hitting? 

Who is the best hitter and worst hitter on the Tribe staff right now? Who is the best hitting pitcher you've ever seen? 

 

 

Samantha Bunten: The "easy out" isn't something anyone ever wants to cede to an opponent. But it would be much easier to swallow if the rest of the lineup wasn't looking like a bunch of "easy outs" too.

 

The problem here isn't that the pitchers can't hit; they're pitchers. Of course they can't hit. The problem is that the hitters can't hit, and so the fact that pitchers have to bat in NL stadiums contributes to a problem that shouldn't exist in the first place. 

 

The pitchers do need to learn how to bunt more effectively, but the bottom line is that it really isn't their job to hit. Blame the rest of the lineup, not the guys who can't make contact because they only have the opportunity to try it twelve times a season. 

 

I'm not sure there's a "best" hitter on the staff right now. They're all pretty bad. None of our starters are guys who have spent a significant amount of time pitching in the NL though, so you really can't blame them when they've never had much opportunity to face major league pitching.

 

Best hitting pitcher I've ever seen? Hands down, without a doubt, it's Dave Burba.

 

 

Nino Colla: You can't compensate for the easy out, unless you get runners on base in front of the pitcher and use the bunt effectively. I really don't care for this because it is just something every club has to deal with, including the NL pitchers, even if they get more time at it. 

 

I do want to say something in concerns to this and my problem is with the schedule, and this is something Manny Acta pointed out. What is it with the Indians getting nine NL road games in a row like this? It effectively cools off their hottest hitter in Travis Hafner by removing him from planet earth for nine straight games. No DH, no cleanup hitter...for nine straight games? That's bogus. 

 

I'm all for interleague and it is cool that they play by the rules of the home ball park, but could the schedule makers not mix up these interleague games a little better so we aren't without our cleanup hitter for nine straight games, especially since he was just getting hot as this road trip started? 

 

The NL is getting the advantage in interleague play, whether it is taking away the other team's DH, or gaining an extra hitter of their own. So why not make sure the AL teams aren't getting screwed in this situation?

 

 

The Coop: Let me put it this way – if the Indians’ first hitters get the job done and the pitcher does what he’s supposed to do on the mound, I’ll give up the “easy out” every time. Pitchers are there to do one thing: advance runners (usually by bunting). Not even National League teams count on their pitchers to do anything more than that. 

 

The hitting ability of the Indians pitching staff is a red herring. That being said, seeing as how none of the Indians pitchers have any hits this year, I can’t refer to any of them as “best.” Some are less bad than others, but at this point, “bad” would be an upgrade for most of them. 

 

In my opinion, the worst hitter on the team is Fausto Carmona. I almost feel bad for him, because it looks like no one ever even taught him how to hit. Two K’s and some terrible bunt attempts against Pittsburgh make him the hands-down winner. 

 

The best hitting pitcher I’ve ever seen is probably either Sabathia or Rick Ankiel. I think I’d give the nod to Ankiel, because he was good enough to still play in the majors as an outfielder, even when he completely lost his ability to pitch. Then again, his career average is only .250, so I’m sure his career will be over soon. But at least he made it last a little longer because of his bat.

 

Lewie Pollis: An AL team's pitchers are unprepared to step to the plate? That's absolutely unacceptable. I hope some heads are going to roll over that one. 

 

My memory is clouded by my youth at the time, but I remember being really impressed by Dave Burba's swing. Other than that, I'd say Carlos Zambrano. Dan Haren has looked pretty good this year too.

 

 

3. Given his unexpectedly stellar performance so far this season, Austin Kearns has become a valuable asset to the team. 

Generally, Kearns is considered a veteran player whose stay with the Tribe is temporary. Kearns is not thought to be part of the team's future plans, but might that be a mistake?

Kearns is only 30, and the uncertainties about the health of Grady Sizemore and the true potential of Michael Brantley may mean that the outfield won't be as crowded as we once thought.

Do you see any merit in the Tribe looking to hang on to Kearns beyond the 2010 season? If not, is this because you would prefer to see another player in left in the future, or is merely because the Tribe might not be able to afford him? 

Would you be willing to spend the money to keep him around? How much would Kearns be worth to you, contract-wise?

 

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