April 15, 2014

Medina
Intermittent clouds
25°F

Indians commentary: Blame Dolans for a season over so soon

This and that from a not-so wonderful Wahoo wonderland:

** Has a season ever been over so fast? The Indians got off to their traditional slow start, lost two of their top three players to injuries — Grady Sizemore and Asdrubal Cabrera — and are now all but out of contention before the All-Star break, which is still nearly a month away.

OK, so few thought the Indians had a real shot at winning the Central Division, but to be out of the race this quick is pretty sad. It’s what happens when injuries strike a team that really wasn’t that talented to begin with.

Don’t blame manager Manny Acta or general manager Mark Shapiro. They can only play the cards they’ve been dealt. As always, the blame rests squarely on the shoulders of owner Larry Dolan, who won’t spend enough money to field a contending team, one that might be able to overcome a couple injuries and remain competitive.

** The Indians have to like what they’ve seen from mega prospect Carlos Santana, who has finally been promoted from the minors to give fans a reason to watch the rest of the season. Santana hasn’t been off the charts yet — give it time — but he looks like the real deal. He has been far from overmatched at the plate and has flashed his advertised big arm behind it.

The only hitch in his big league baptism has been miscommunication on signs with Indians starters Mitch Talbot and Jake Westbrook. The language barrier was big early in the Dominican Republic native’s career. But he’s made strides in learning English. He’s mastered almost everything else in his baseball career. Why should this be a problem?

* Is Talbot coming back down to earth? The unheralded right-hander surprisingly won a job in the rotation out of spring training and then, even more surprisingly, began the season as arguably Cleveland’s best starter. He’s been average, at best, as of late, and horrendous his last time out, when he allowed six consecutive hits — including a National League-record four doubles — in one inning in a loss to the Mets.

Talbot may just be going through a rough spell, something nearly every major league pitcher experiences. But now that the season is deeper, and information has been gathered on the rookie pitcher, it could be that teams are beginning to adjust. We shall see.

** Travis Hafner is starting to heat up at the plate, even flashing some of the power that has been largely missing since 2007. His reward: A seat on the bench during the ongoing nine-game interleague road trip. That’s about how the season is going for the Indians. Just when something good begins to happen, something bad is right around the corner.

** Here’s something good: It appeared that right-hander Justin Masterson was all but headed to the bullpen when, out of nowhere, he goes out and looks like a legitimate starting pitcher over three consecutive outings.

And here’s something bad: The next time out he played about as bad as he has all season, albeit so did Indians fielders, Masterson included, who misplayed a pair of bunt singles and allowing four other infield singles in a truly Double-A defensive display.

** Because they are out of contention and because it’s what they do, the Indians will undoubtedly begin to shop some of their veterans in preparation for the July 31 trading deadline.

That means Indians fans might be getting their last look at guys like Jake Westbrook, Russell Branyan, Austin Kearns and Kerry Wood (if the Indians are really lucky). Big deal, right? Outside of Westbrook and more because of his character, I say, right. Could Shin-Soo Choo, Cleveland’s best overall player, be on the move? That’s crazy. That would be like trading back-to-back Cy Young award winners or something.

** Seen enough of David Huff, haven’t you? Me, too, but the Indians apparently have not. They keep running the brash left-hander out there every five days and getting the same tired results.

Aaron Laffey has been starting in Columbus and is ready to grab a spot in the rotation, something he would have earned out of spring training had he not performed effectively out of the bullpen. It’s high time he takes Huff’s.

** It’s good and bad to see Matt LaPorta tearing it up at Triple-A Columbus since his demotion.

Good, because it shows LaPorta can indeed hit, something that wasn’t on display through over the first two months of the season with the Indians.

Bad, because the minors may be the only place LaPorta can produce. He’s still young, but he has already disappointed during two lengthy stays on the big league level and may not be the star player the Indians thought they were getting from Milwaukee in the CC Sabathia trade.

** If I could ask Shapiro one favor before he leaves office and becomes team president next year, it would be for him to release second baseman Luis Valbuena and erase him from my eyes forever.

Valbuena’s horrifyingly bad play is affecting my eat, sleep and work habits. It’s not that much to ask, Mark, honestly, it’s not.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.