MLB Team Report - Cleveland Indians - INSIDE PITCH
CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians went into the All-Star break with a record of 47-47. It's the 13th time this season they have been exactly at the .500 mark, and for most of the first half they haven't wavered more than three games above or below .500.
It will likely be a challenge for the Indians to mount a serious push for the postseason in the second half unless they start to get some consistent production from their injured and under-performing players. Two key players are currently on the disabled list: right-hander Justin Masterson and center fielder and leadoff hitter Michael Bourn.
Masterson is out with an inflamed right knee, but General Manager Chris Antonetti said the Indians expect him to be activated within a week following the resumption of play after the All-Star break. Bourn is behind Masterson in his rehab, and could still be sidelined for another couple of weeks.
Masterson has been one of the biggest disappointments on the team this year. A 14-game winner and All-Star selection last year, Masterson this year is 4-6 with a 5.51 ERA. It's hard to see the Indians climbing back into contention without a big second half from Masterson.
Antonetti said he is "exploring a lot of different things" in trade talks with other teams, but he is quick to add that the biggest need for the Indians in the second half is for the players being counting on to produce to start producing. In addition to Masterson, that list would also include designated hitter Nick Swisher, first baseman Carlos Santana, second baseman Jason Kipnis and utilityman Ryan Raburn, all of whom were important contributors last season.
Swisher has more errors than home runs, which is one reason he is being used more as a designated hitter than first baseman. The switch hitting Santana has shown some life lately, but he is still hitting just .189 against right-handed pitchers. Kipnis, like Masterson an all-star last year, is hitting just .255 with three home runs and 24 RBIs after hitting .284 with 17 home runs and 84 RBIs last year.
Raburn hit 16 home runs in 243 at-bats as a super sub last year, but this year he has hit just two home runs in 151 at-bats. With the exception of right-hander Corey Kluber, who had an all-star-caliber first half, the starting rotation has been in a constant state of flux.
So for the Indians to become a factor in the race in the second half, what they need most is simply better production from the players already on the roster. "I wish our record was better," said manager Terry Francona. "But I think the way we played (to get back to .500), the next two months, if we play good baseball, it's going to be very exciting."
MLB Team Report - Cleveland Indians - NOTES, QUOTES
STREAK: Won one
FIRST-HALF MVP: OF Michael Brantley has been not just the Indians' first-half MVP, but he has emerged as one of the top all-around outfielders in the American League. Brantley, the Indians' lone all-star selection, is hitting .322 with 15 home runs, 63 RBIs and he has a .382 on-base percentage and .519 slugging percentage. He has ranked in the top 10 in the league in most offensive categories. He has ranked among the league leaders in many offensive categories in the first half, he's second in the league with 10 outfield assists, and he's 10-for-10 in stolen base attempts.
FIRST-HALF GRADE: D -- After reaching the postseason as the No.1 wildcard team last year, the expectations for the Indians coming into this season were high. They were expected to contend not just for a wildcard spot, but also to put pressure on Detroit for the Central Division title. However, several key players have underperformed, and the Indians have been unable to put together an extended run of quality play. The decision by the front office to let pitcher Scott Kazmir leave as a free agent has haunted them. Kazmir is an all-star with Oakland, and the Indians' starting rotation has been a mess, with only one pitcher, RHP Corey Kluber, having a winning record.
PIVOTAL POST-BREAK PLAYER: RHP Justin Masterson. After winning 14 games, being named to the All-Star team, and establishing himself as a 200-innings workhorse No.1 starter last year, Masterson has had an extremely disappointing season. He is 4-6 with a 5.51 ERA, and he has pitched less than five innings in five of his last eight starts. Masterson is currently on the disabled list with an inflamed knee, but he is expected back within a week of the resumption of play following the all-star break. One theory for Masterson's poor first half is that he is distracted by his looming free agency. During spring training the Indians and Masterson tried, but failed, to negotiate a contract extension. The talks were tabled until after the season. It could be that his unsettled contract situation has affected Masterson's performance this season. But as the team's clear No.1 starter, Masterson will have to pitch much better in the second half for the Indians to have any chance of contending for a berth in the postseason.
BUY OR SELL: General manager Chris Antonetti is biding his time on that decision as the Indians continue to hover at or around the .500 mark. Two players' whose names seem likely to come up, should Antonetti decide to sell, are pitcher Justin Masterson and SS Asdrubal Cabrera. Both players can become free agents after the season, and in the case of Cabrera, he will likely be allowed to leave uncontested because the Indians have top prospect Francisco Lindor, who could be ready to ascend to the major leagues next year as the starting shortstop. Antonetti won't be dealing from a position of strength should he consider dealing Masterson and/or Cabrera, because both players are having terrible years. If the Indians are buyers, they could use another starting pitcher and a right-handed hitter to help out against left-handed pitchers. The Indians' record vs. left-handed starters is 12-16.
INJURY STATUS: The Indians have been hampered by some nagging injuries, specifically to CF Michael Bourn, who has had three flare-ups of a hamstring condition that has resulted in two trips onto the disabled list. The Indians hope Bourn could be activated two or three weeks after the all-star break. RHP Justin Masterson is on the DL with an inflamed knee, and the Indians expect him back within a week of the resumption of play following the break.
TOP PROSPECT: SS Francisco Lindor will play in Cleveland, it's just a matter of when. It could be before September, it could be during September, or it could be on opening day next year. The 20-year-old switch-hitting Lindor, the eighth overall pick in the 2011 draft, has moved quickly through the Indians' minor league system. He has been successful at every stop, despite being one of or the youngest players in every league he's played in. He's a superior defender, and an accomplished contact hitter who shows good patience at the plate. With SS Asdrubal Cabrera a candidate to be traded should the Indians become sellers at the All-Star break, Lindor could arrive in Cleveland sooner rather than later. Cabrera will become a free agent after the season, and it's clear that Indians officials view Lindor as the team's eventual starting shortstop, if not this year, then on opening day next year.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "For all that's happened to us, it's in front of us now. We are where we are, and if we can play well, we can climb back into it and play relevant games at the end." -- Indians manager Terry Francona
MLB Team Report - Cleveland Indians - ROSTER REPORT
--RHP Justin Masterson (right knee inflammation) went on the 15-day disabled list July 8.
--CF Michael Bourn (strained left hamstring) went on the 15-day disabled list July 6. An MRI revealed the injury was more serious than originally thought. Bourn likely will be out until late July or early August.
--OF Nyjer Morgan (sprained right knee) went on the 15-day disabled list May 15, and he was transferred to the 60-day DL on May 22. An MRI exam revealed no structural damage. He rehabbed at the Indians' Goodyear, Ariz., complex through June. He might be able to return in mid-July.
--DH Jason Giambi (left knee inflammation) went on the 15-day disabled list June 12 and was transferred to the 60-day DL on July 12.
RHP Corey Kluber
RHP Josh Tomlin
RHP Trevor Bauer
RHP Zach McAllister
RHP Cody Allen (closer)
RHP John Axford
RHP Scott Atchison
LHP Marc Rzepczynski
RHP Bryan Shaw
RHP Carlos Carrasco
LHP Kyle Crockett
LHP Nick Hagadone
RHP Austin Adams
1B Carlos Santana
2B Jason Kipnis
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
3B Lonnie Chisenhall
DH Nick Swisher
INF/OF Mike Aviles
LF Ryan Raburn
CF Michael Brantley
RF David Murphy
OF Chris Dickerson