Tribe starting pitching continues to impress

Ubaldo Jimenez 1

Perhaps the Indians are getting a little lucky. Even in a beleaguered sports town like Cleveland luck has to turn your way at least a little from time to time. With Scott Kazmir returning to All Star form and Ubaldo Jimenez suddenly looking at least competent, the Indians appear to have a starting rotation that can support the rejuvenated offense and solid bullpen in a run to the playoffs.

Or maybe we have a front office that’s made some shrewd moves at a time when ownership finally ponied up enough money to give them a fighting chance. Chris Antonetti certainly deserves some credit for taking a chance on Kazmir and plucking out guys like Mark Reynolds and Ryan Raburn.

And finally, we might have one of the best managers and coaching staffs in baseball with Terry Francona leading the teeam. It’s hard to put too much blame on Manny Acta when ownership tied the hands of the front office, but Acta didn’t exactly get the most out of his team. With Francona we have a proven champion and someone who clearly knows more about baseball than everyone in the Cleveland sports media combined. He and his staff have been working tirelessly with Jimenez and Kazmir, and when everyone was panicking about Jimenez, Tito knew that patience was needed. Jimenez may still disappoint everyone, but he seems to have a fighting chance with the coaching he’s been getting.

Throw in some breaks like incompetent umpires and the Indians are on a roll heading into a weekend showdown with the Tigers. It’s still very early, and we all know baseball seasons can turn on a dime, but this fast start feels different than previous years. This team is very deep on offense, giving Francona endless options to play matchup baseball with his lineup, and suddenly the pitching looks like it can turn into a strength as well. And we have some insurance with guys like Trevor Bauer at AAA. They definitely have my attention . . .

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Carlos Carrasco still maturing

Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Carlos Carrasco pitches against the Los Angeles Angels in the first inning of their MLB American League baseball game in Anaheim, California September 6, 2010. REUTERS/Alex Gallardo (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

Carlos Carrasco has been one of the nice surprises of this 2011 season for the Indians as they appear to be building an excellent, young pitching staff. I was pissed about the Cliff Lee trade several years ago as the Indians gave up on Lee a year early in a pathetic salary dump. I usually applaud the Tribe brass for their trades, as they know how to find young talent, but they gave up Lee too early and they should have insisted on more in return.

That said, they certainly got talent back with Carrasco. He’s been dominant at times this year, though he also goes through growing pains at times. This account from the KC papers from last night’s game is interesting.

The Royals clubbed four homers Friday night, including three in the first four innings, in a 12-0 bludgeoning of Cleveland, but it was the response to those homers by Indians starter Carlos Carrasco that lit the fuse.

Carrasco followed a grand slam by Melky Cabrera, which pushed the Royals’ lead to 7-0 in the fourth, by throwing a pitch at Billy Butler’s head. That prompted an immediate ejection for Carrasco that likely prevented an on-field brawl.

“I barely got out of the way,” Butler said. “It was right at my head, and there was no way around it. I usually don’t react that way. If I get hit, I get hit. I don’t have anything to say. But in that situation, I’m going to open my mouth.”

The Royals were already coming out of the dugout and the bullpen when home-plate umpire Scott Barry threw Carrasco out of the game.

Carrasco insisted he didn’t go head-hunting.

“I didn’t throw at anybody,” he said. “The baseball just ran away. I know it looked bad after a home run, but there is nothing I can do right there. I was upset at myself, and Melky, too.”

It was hard to find anybody in either clubhouse who bought Carrasco’s version.

“He’s a young guy,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “He’s immature at times and shows his frustration the wrong way. He was talked to.”

The near bean ball came in apparent retaliation for Cabrera’s elongated admiration of his slam before circling the bases. Even the Royals acknowledged that hitting the next hitter, Butler, was within the game’s unwritten rules.

Just not in the head.

“Be a man,” left fielder Alex Gordon said. “Throw at his back. Not his head.”

Cleveland reliever Chad Durbin, who replaced Carrasco, buzzed Cabrera in his next at-bat with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth. That brought no reaction from the Royals or the umpires.

Hopefully this will be a good lesson for him.