If you haven't heard, the Indians have had some problems with their bullpen. And in the absence of any real fixes, the Indians have been trying anything and everything in the hopes of blundering onto at least a couple of hidden gems.
Optioned LHP Rafael Perez to Columbus (AAA)
Released RHP Juan Salas
Purchased the Contract of RHP Matt Herges and Recalled him from Columbus (AAA)
Rafael Perez is I think the epicenter of this year's bullpen disaster. He's struggled from Opening Day, and because of his very good history of relief, not to mention being (until recently) the only left-hander in the bullpen, got many chances to give up key runs. He was at times the only thing preventing last year's bullpen from total collapse, throwing 76.1 innings behind a very good starting staff. This year, without a competent Perez or as good a starting staff, we've seen a total bullpen collapse. He's made four appearances in Columbus, but the main work is being done with personal instruction, not game action.
The Indians claimed Juan Salas off waivers late in Spring Training, but he didn't pitch a game in the organization, and the Indians didn't even bother to send him through waivers.
Matt Herges has probably been the best of the bullpen call-ups. His best years as a reliever were with the Dodgers around the turn of the century, but he had a nice 2007 season for the pennant-winning Rockies. In 2008 it looked like he was through, allowing 79 hits in 64.1 innings, and could only sign a minor-league deal with the Indians. His few appearances for the Clippers weren't that impressive, but the beggarly Indians couldn't afford to be choosy. And at that point, they weren't looking for dominance, just innings. Herges has given up two home runs in his 5 appearances with the Indians, but his strikeout/walk ratio is 10:1, and those gaudy numbers have earned him a prominent position in the bullpen. For this week.
Designated RHP Vinnie Chulk for Assignment
Outrighted IF Tony Graffanino to Columbus (AAA)
Recalled LHP Jeremy Sowers from Columbus (AAA)
This move was supposed to help shore up the bullpen, for Sowers was to take the place of Aaron Laffey in the rotation, and Laffey was to move to the bullpen. In theory it was a terrible tactical move, for the Indians were not only putting more pressure on the bullpen by downgrading the rotation, but not getting the most out of Laffey, who would be throwing less innings. In reality, the Indians didn't have any credible options in the bullpen, so they had to turn a starter into a reliever. For the most part, Laffey has given the Indians what they were looking for: he's gone multiple innings when called upon, saving what little effectiveness is in the bullpen for more higher-leverage situations. But now the Indians have a problem with their rotation, which we'll look at later.
Vinnie Chulk was impressive in March, but not in April and May, when the games count in the standings.
Reinstated IF Jamey Carroll from 15-day Disabled List
Optioned IF Josh Barfield to Columbus (AAA)
Carroll's return to Cleveland precipitated the Jhonny-to-third experiment, since the Indians now had good depth at second base and a need to improve their infield defense. Unfortunately, this meant games with Mark DeRosa at first or Ryan Garko in the outfield, which had the opposite effect at those positions. With the DH available, there should be no reason why the Indians can't put Garko and DeRosa in the lineup without resorting to crazy positional calisthenics. Of course that means David Dellucci sits on the bench, but I don't think the offense will suffer too much if that happens.
Optioned LHP Jeremy Sowers to Columbus (AAA)
Outrighted RHP Vinnie Chulk to Columbus (AAA)
Signed RHP Luis Vizcaino to a major-league contract
I can't recall too many times the Indians signing an in-season free agent and bringing him straight to the majors, but the bullpen being what it is, the rare is quickly becoming the commonplace. Vizcaino has fit right in, giving up a walk-off home run in his first appearance.
While Aaron Laffey has given the Indians some innings in the bullpen, Sowers wasn't able to do the same in the rotation. It's now become rather clear that Jeremy's stuff doesn't translate well from AAA (where he's pitched well this season) to the majors. Maybe a move to the National League would be a good move for the Indians and for Jeremy.
Transferred LHP Scott Lewis from the 15-day Disabled List to the 60-day Disabled List (left forearm)
Optioned LHP Tony Sipp to Columbus (AAA)
Outrighted RHP Masa Kobayashi to Columbus (AAA)
Purchased the Contract of LHP David Huff and Recalled him from Columbus (AAA)
Purchased the Contract of RHP Greg Aquino and Recalled him from Columbus
The big blow is Scott Lewis' lingering arm injury. He experienced pain when rehabbing his arm, and has been shut down for now. So with Lewis out, Sowers not effective, and Laffey still needed in the bullpen, the Indians brought up David Huff, their best pitching prospect, who's probably not a finished product, but a much better option than anybody else in Columbus.
Tony Sipp was fantastic for his first couple appearances, but has had some disastrous appearances after that. He's struck out 9, but walked 8, and relievers who can't throw strikes don't stick around long even if their stuff is fantastic.
Masa Kobayashi was in recent weeks just taking up a roster spot, as he was completely unusable. Maybe he'll regroup in Columbus.
Greg Aquino had been Columbus' closer, and was therefore a prime candidate to become a Cleveland Indian. He gave up one run in eight innings with the Clippers.