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Cleveland Indians Sunday News and Notes: The offense continues to struggle

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How do you fix a lineup that is struggling both on offense and defense?

Michael Brantley was one of the few bright spots in yesterday's loss
Michael Brantley was one of the few bright spots in yesterday's loss
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday's Game

Detroit Tigers leave Cleveland Indians feeling queasy after they defeat Tribe, 4-1 | cleveland.com

Brantley's bat not enough to back bullpen in Detroit | indians.com

Alfredo Simon lulls Tribe bats back to sleep - Let's Go Tribe

Trevor Bauer was a late scratch because of food poisoning, but that was really not the reason the Indians lost. Somehow a cobbled-together group of relievers allowed just four runs (it could have been much, much worse given how many base runners Cleveland pitchers allowed), but the offense couldn't do much of anything against Alfredo Simon. The opportunities they took advantage of on Friday they didn't take advantage of yesterday, and the effect was a rather ugly 3-run loss.

Indians News

Michael Brantley's back might still be barking, but it isn't slowing the Cleveland Indians outfielder | cleveland.com

One good thing from yesterday's game was that Michael Brantley, who started slow along with the rest of the club, pounded out four hits to continue his hot streak at the plate. Brantley still isn't 100%, but he's playing through the back injury, and is suddenly hitting .359/390/.462, which is far an away the best batting line on the club.

House's early struggles continue in spot start | indians.com

When Bauer couldn't go, the Indians elected to start TJ House, who was scheduled to start Monday's game, in his place. House lasted three innings, partly because he wasn't on his routine, and partly because he just didn't look very good on the mound. I want to be cautious about his struggles given that House's appearances have been sporadic to say the least; of his three appearances, yesterday's start came after the fewest days off (5), but that one wasn't scheduled. The Indians have another day off this Thursday. Because House was used yesterday, his next start will probably be pushed back again to late in the week.

The DiaTribe: Playing Defense on a Lazy Sunday

Al makes some very nice points about the Indians' slow start. The defense again (small sample size warnings) is an issue, though the pitching staff has somewhat mitigated that because they lead the American League in strikeouts. If you do have a porous defense, then you're going to need a staff that limits Balls in Play, and that's the kind of staff the Indians have built.

Now usually when you have a poor defense, you justify it with a good offense. But being a poor defensive and offensive team at the same time? That, if it continues, is going to lead to major changes. Michael Brantley's (supposed) poor range in left field is more than made up for by what he does at the plate, but how long will the Indians stick with a poor-fielding Lonnie Chisenhall hitting with a 58 OPS+? Again, this could all change rapidly by the end of the month, but if we're still looking at a bad defense and offense in the middle of May, there's going to be massive changes.

Al gives his sugggestions, and the one that one that is probably going to be made in the next couple of weeks will be swapping out Zach Walters for Jerry Sands. Walters could spell Michael Bourn in center (and perhaps more than that), so just the fact we wouldn't see Mike Aviles patrolling center again would alone make the move worthwhile. Francisco Lindor for Jose Ramirez is going to happen eventually, with the move being predicated on when the club feels that Lindor is ready to stay at the major-league level. Urshela for Chisenhall probably won't happen unless Chisenhall remains a wreck at the plate through the end of May.

Latest 25-man/40-man Rosters

(embiggened version)

April 26 2015

No changes to the 25-man roster, but the Indians did activate Zach Walters from the Disabled List and have optioned him to AAA rather than have him play in Columbus as part of a rehab assignment. The move was likely done to save a couple weeks of service time. As mentioned above, when Walters is deemed ready to go, they'll bring him to the majors (unless Nick Swisher is ready first). He hits right-handed, he can play center field, and the Indians need both those things right now.

Other moves that didn't affect the 25-man roster but could have an impact on it sooner or later:

  • Nick Swisher has started his rehab assignment, and looks to be on the road towards re-joining the big-league club. I would think the Indians would take the entire rehab stint (15 days) to make sure his knees will be able to handle the rigors of playing everyday. When he is healthy, that creates somewhat of a roster quandry. Swisher re-joining the team would likely shift David Murphy into a reserve role, and would once again mean that there would be no true backup center fielder on the roster. Going to a five-man bench would make Terry Francona toss and turn at night, so that would mean either Jerry Sands or Zach Walters (who would have taken Sands' place on the roster) would be removed to make room for Swisher.
  • Giovanny Urshela was activated from the AAA Disabled List. With Lonnie Chisenhall's struggles both on defense and offense, Urshela could force the Indians to make a difficult decision if he picks up where he left off last year.