September 23, 2014

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Indians: Tribe lineup in need of assistance

Unless the Indians make one, better yet, two significant moves before the end of the trading deadline today, you can close the books on the season — at least as far as the playoffs are concerned.

This lineup full of Triple-A players and others failing to carry their weight — Matt LaPorta, Carlos Santana, Orlando Cabrera, Austin Kearns — isn’t taking the Indians anywhere, except out of the race for the Central Division crown.

It’s simply not good enough to contend in any division, not even the weakest one in baseball.

Yes, Shin-Soo Choo is expected to return in mid-to-late August. Whoopeee! Unless Choo is coming back as a different player than he was before breaking his thumb — .244, five home runs and 28 RBIs in 72 games — and that’s tough to do when you’re coming off an injury to your thumb, since it’s one of the fingers you use to hold the bat and all.

The trade for Kosuke Fukudome appears to signal that the Indians aren’t overly confident Grady Sizemore will make it back from his latest injury. The one-time offensive catalyst of the team wasn’t much help before and can’t be counted on to provide much going forward.

If Choo and Sizemore returned from injury and to their usual form, then yes, it would be a boost that could take the Indians back to the top of the division. But the odds of either happening appear slim at this point.

Besides, the Indians need offensive help, and they need it now. No-hit by the Angels Ervin Santana one day, get four hits through eight innings off some stiff named Jeff Francis the next.

Already, it’s appearing that designated hitter Travis Hafner and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera are growing weary of carrying the offense, something postseason contenders don’t require, by the way.

Cabrera entered Saturday with just three hits in last 21 at-bats, while Hafner had three hits in his last 22 at-bats and was without a homer since July 17.

It’s tough to criticize Indians general manager Chris Antonetti for the Fukudome trade. It cost Cleveland less than $1 million and a pair of low-level prospects, and he’s a better option than both Travis Buck and Austin Kearns — at least on paper.

The guy gets on base, as evidenced by his .374 on-base percentage with the Cubs, which ranked 14th in the National League.

Problem is, on the rare occasion that the Indians actually put someone on base these days, they aren’t coming home.

Fukudome is certainly not enough, and with Carlos Beltran and Hunter Pence already going elsewhere, there might not be enough offensive power out there to help the Indians.

To qualify for the postseason means winning your division in the American League this year, with arguably three of top five teams in the AL residing in the East, where the wild card assuredly will be decided.

So, the Indians have to be better than the first-place Tigers, and they aren’t even close.

If they keep running this lineup out there, they’ll be fortunate to hold off the Twins for fourth place in the division.

Head case

Suspect stuff on far too many occasions isn’t the only flaw on right-hander Carlos Carrasco’s resume these days. He’s also becoming quite a punk.

Exhibit A: During a recent inning in which he was getting roughed up, Carrasco fielded a two-out ground ball back to the mound, wound up and threw a frustration fastball to inexperienced first baseman Carlos Santana. Waaahhhh!

Exhibit B: This is a doozy. Again, in the midst of getting roughed up Friday night at Progressive Field, Carrasco was ejected for throwing near the head of the Royals’ Billy Butler. The pitch came one after he allowed a grand slam to Melky Cabrera, who admired his shot to right field that put KC in front 7-0 in the fourth inning.

Instead of taking his medicine, putting his head down and walking shamefully to the dugout, Carrasco began shouting at some Royals, who had come onto the field as both benches emptied. Carrasco acted as though he wanted to to take matters further, but with no one separating him from the players shouting at him, he chose to continue the verbal spar.

Then, he had the gall to tell reporters after the game that he was not trying to throw at Butler. Really?

It was another temper tantrum from a 24-year-old pitcher that despite some big league seasoning, doesn’t get it.

Over a six-start stint earlier this season, Carrasco was nearly unbeatable, winning a pair of one-run games with everything going his way.

But now that it’s not, he’s acting like a baby. Manager Manny Acta put it best when he said Carrasco is immature at times. And right now, he’s not the kind of guy you feel comfortable starting a postseason game.

Power poll

  1. Philadelphia Phillies: It looks like there’s no stopping the Phillies in their quest to return to the World Series.
  2. Boston Red Sox: Rulers of arguably the toughest division in baseball have to be the favorites to face the Phillies for all the marbles.
  3. New York Yankees: Yanks are fighting off injuries to key players at an inopportune time but are still good enough to stay afloat.
  4. San Francisco Giants: The addition of Carlos Beltran makes the Giants a legitimate contender should they qualify for the postseason, which appears likely.
  5. Texas Rangers: Defending AL champs are still too inconsistent to make them a favorite to repeat.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter.