It's truly amazing how quickly the MLB teeter-totter can swing the other way. In a matter of days, the Indians transitioned from first place fandoms into slipping sea ducks.
But don't expect how they go about returning to the top of the American League Central to be triumphant. In fact, we might not even notice the next time they climb back to first place in their respective division. If they are going to do so in the first place, at least one of two things must happen: One, the pitching must become more consistent. This is much more likely than the other option.
Plan B is to produce more offense, which will be easier said than done. Due to a nasty bite from the injury bug, the Indians will be without a few vital players. Designated hitter Travis Hafner, who turns 35 on Sunday, went on the disabled list for the sixth time in his career after microscopic surgery on his right knee Thursday to remove tattered cartilage. His return is expected to come after the All-Star break.
Carlos Santana‘s concussion, though only placing him on the 7-day disabled list, could be as serious in the long run. Though he has been cleared for cardio activities, head trauma can rear its ugly head at a moment's notice. To add to it, his replacement, Lou Marson, was nailed in the face by a Gavin Floyd pitch that required stitches. And luckily, it appears that shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera‘s tight hamstring is endurable.
But the hitters who will replace Hafner and Santana on the roster will not be anything flashy. Third basemen Lonnie Chisenhall could assume the DH duties after losing the starting hot corner job to veteran Jack Hannahan. With Hannahan's steady glove work, and Jose Lopez ‘s right handed bat, Chisenhall's only viable spot on the lineup card is at designated hitter.
It is also viable to recall Matt LaPorta from triple-A Columbus. It may not be the most opportune time, seeing the drop-off in his batting average from April (.380) to May (.241). But his power is improving, his 14 home runs leads the Clippers with the next closest being Beau Mills at seven. And a manager won't care if 13 of LaPorta's home runs came at home; the point is, they came. Even if LaPorta is out of options and may not be sent back to the minors without clearing waivers, he is 27, and running out of time to prove himself.
If those two are not enough, and the Indians decide to pursue offensive help, the renowned sluggers from around the league will not be on the Tribe's radar come late June, early July, and there is one very specific reason for that.
Small, even mid-market teams seldom make blockbuster trades in back-to-back seasons. The trade with the Colorado Rockies that sent ex-Tribe pitching prospects Drew Pomeranz and Alex White packing nearly depleted the depth of the Indians' farm system. There simply are not enough up-and-coming players that would attract the eye of GM's across the league for an All-Star caliber hitter. The Indians' top prospect is short stop Francisco Lindor, who, at age 18, is too young to trade right now.