Three fringe starters will be key to the Indians' chances to make the playoffs
For the Indians to make it to the postseason in 2011, everyone will need to step up, That is a given.
But there are some names that are not even on the squad right now that might be key to the Tribe's chances, and the reason for that is simple.
The Indians will play 45 games in the final 44 calendar days of the season, after yesterday's game with Minnesota was rained out. In those 44 days, there are only going to be two scheduled days off, and as it stands right now, two doubleheaders are already scheduled, and unless Cleveland was to give up one of those days off, another doubleheader will have to be added.
Okay, so it should be evident where I am going with this.
First off, Carlos Carrasco will need to come back, and to come back with a clear head and his emotions under control, for although he claimed not to be throwing at Kansas City's Billy Butler (an errant pitch that earned Carrasco a suspension), there was also an incident in another game where Carrasco -- frustrated after being touched for a big inning -- fired an unnecessary fast ball to first base on a comebacker to the mound.
Emotion is fine, but there is context to be considered as well, and when the going is getting cluttered on the basepaths, or a bloop falls for a double or a teammate makes an error, a starting pitcher has to be able to bear down and take care of business, not self-destruct.
So let's hope that Carrasco will be ready emotionally as well as physically for the stretch run.
The other four regular starters in the rotation are what they are, and besides an erratic Fausto Carmona, the Indians are looking pretty good with these four that include Justin Masterson, Josh Tomlin, and Ubaldo Jimenez.
Even Carmona, I have a feeling, is about ready to regain the sometimes-dominant form that he is capable of. He has pitched much better since coming back from the injury he sustained in Cincinnati.
Let's look at the glass as half-full and say that four starters are locks, and one more just needs to keep his head in the game a bit more.
So now we tackle the sixth (and perhaps even seventh) starters, and that is where I feel someone will have to step up for the Indians to make thee playoffs, simply because, with the volume of games during the last six-plus weeks, we are going to need at least six guys (with the extra starts needed because of doubleheaders) who can give solid innings every time out, to save the bullpen.
Huff has already proven that he belongs in the Bigs, but unfortunately, after he was unexpectedly sent down before being recalled for his start yesterday, you have to wonder if the Indians will keep him up here for good this time.
And McAllister and Gomez are going to have to be ready at a moment's notice for a spot start when those doubleheaders start.
Of course it will help once September arrives that the roster will expand and guys like McAllister and Gomez will be with the team for any spot start that comes along.
But the key will be that they be ready to take on a Seattle or a Minnesota or a Chicago -- or a Detroit, depending on how things shake out.
With a little more than a quarter of a season to go, it is pretty clear where the ooomph is going to come from to get the Indians over the top, if over the top is where they end up.
And while it is evident that hitters need to hit, regular pitching needs to pitch, and even that the right coaching and managerial moves will have to be made game-to-game...
The guys who have to be ready to step up will be Messrs. Huff, Gomez and McAllister.