Tag:Justin Masterson
Posted on: May 12, 2011 10:20 am

Pepper: Peavy's encouraging return, young guns

By Matt Snyder

BASEBALL TODAY: See the video above for my takes on Justin Masterson, Zach Britton, Daniel Hudson, the Angels without Kendrys Morales and Jake Peavy's encouraging first start of 2011.

OVERTHINK MUCH? Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner had a theory as to why Derek Jeter was struggling earlier in the season. It's that Jeter was pressing due to feeling the pressure of the upcoming 3,000-hit milestone. "I'm not concerned about Derek," Steinbrenner told the New York Post. "Milestones can be difficult. They can be a big weight on a guy." Oh, yeah, and then this: "He's obviously broken through that and is hitting well now." As if right on cue, Jeter went out and had an 0-6 day Wednesday night. So is he feeling the pressure again? Let's all take a deep breath and realize guys are going to have ups and downs over the course of 162 games. You too, Hal.

FIRST OF MANY: Royals prospect-turned-first baseman Eric Hosmer went yard in Yankee Stadium Wednesday night for the first home run of his very young career. To top things off, he came through with the go-ahead RBI on a sacrifice fly in extra innings. He's sure to see some hills and valleys throughout his rookie season, but thus far he's been really solid. Cling to that .250 batting average if you must, as Hosmer's sporting a .409 on-base percentage and a .909 OPS, which is outstanding.

BACK ON TRACK: Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro started the season absolutely on fire, but then drastically cooled. In fact, he recently had a 12-game stretch where he hit .137 with an abysmal .311 OPS. The Cubs' rivals came to town, Mike Quade dropped Castro in the order and things seem to be back where Starlin likes them. In the past two games, he's 6-8 with a triple, four RBI, three runs and a walk.

MORE HUG-GATE: Wednesday in Pepper we discussed the completely meaningless yet somehow blown out of proportion hug between Albert Pujols and Cubs general manager Jim Hendry. Hendry laughed about the talk that fateful embrace sparked. Pujols offered up his thoughts on the situation Wednesday afternoon. "I figured that would happen, that they would play with it," Pujols said. "At the end, it's not what you do on the field. It's what kind of person you are off the field. That's the kind of relationship you want to build with somebody you respect. He's on the other side. I'm on our side. I just think it's kind of ridiculous. Three writers came and talked to me about that and the contract. "Are you serious? C'mon." (StLtoday.com) Meanwhile, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times says Cubs fans should forget about Pujols for two reasons: 1. He's not signing with the Cubs; 2. They'll be better off in the long-haul for it.

TORRE SETTLING IN: Joe Torre is ready to attend the first owner's meetings in his new role of executive vice president of baseball operations. The first meeting's agenda doesn't appear to have any impact in terms of on-field play, but there is one interesting nugget in this article: Torre's reason to retire from managing was that he couldn't take losing anymore. "It wasn't balanced out by the winning anymore. I hated it," Torre said. "I was more ready not to do what I've been doing for years. When the Commissioner made this job offer to me, I asked him a few times if he thought I could do it. It was the insecurity of not knowing what the job entailed, even though it's baseball-related. But it has been fun and very energizing for me." Good for him. Honestly, he's 70, who needs that kind of day-in, day-out stress at that age anyway? (MLB.com)

I MIGHT BE A SADIST, BUT ... : Grant Brisbee over at SB Nation asked how much money it would take to step into the batter's box and face Aroldis Chapman right now -- keeping in mind that he can hit 105 on the radar gun and has walked nine of the last 14 batters he's faced. The stipulation is that you could wear a helmet but no "Barry Bonds armor." Honestly, I'd give it a go for free just to see what it looked like from there. My biggest issue isn't so much the fear of getting drilled, but the fact that he's left-handed (I'm a lefty and they always had me mentally whipped when I played). Then again, I haven't been hit with a pitch in probably 11 years and never took one more than 90 mph. Maybe I'll take some cash for the fictional at-bat afterall.

CREDIT WHERE DUE: Tigers manager Jim Leyland was going to give slugging first baseman Miguel Cabrera the day off Wednesday to give him a few days off (the Tigers have an off-day Thursday) before a weekend series to rest his sore back. Instead, Cabrera waved him off and insisted on playing. (MLB.com) Keep this in mind whenever you hear people complaining about how the guys only play for the money and don't really care about the results. Sitting down would have had no effect on Cabrera's earnings. Since the complainers like to use real-world examples, compare this to having your boss tell you to take the day off and you insisting on staying at work (yeah, sure you would). Oh, and he had a two-RBI double in the fifth to give the Tigers the lead. They would win 9-7.

IN THE CINCY AREA AND LIKE SMOKED MEATS? The Reds have put in a new restaurant called Mr. Red's Smokehouse, and it will open Friday for the first game of the Reds' series against the Cardinals. On the menu, you'll find smoked ribs, turkey legs, pulled pork and chicken wings -- in addition to rotating specialty items. This weekend's item is "smoked Cardinal" (it's actually quail). Click here for a video tour of the new smokehouse.

HAIL DELAY: Via Big League Stew, here's a video of the hailstorm that caused an hour-plus delay to Tuesday night's Twins-Tigers game in Minnesota. Yes, that is golf-ball sized hail and a good amount of it.

IF YOU CARE ABOUT DYKSTRA: I'm pretty well over him at this point, and have been for years. If you are interested in what's become of Lenny Dykstra's life, according to this interview, by all means click through and read it. Scott Engel of RotoExperts.com got an exclusive interview with Dykstra's limo driver.

HIDE THE WOMEN AND CHILDREN: Roger McDowell's suspension is almost over, as he'll rejoin the Braves Friday and resume his duties as their pitching coach. (MLB.com) I'd encourage fans across America to heckle him and test if those sensitivity classes paid off.

CANADIAN DOLLARS: An interesting discussion here, in that -- as long as the Canadian dollar is valued higher than the American dollar -- players for the Blue Jays are actually earning more money than their contracts dictate, assuming they cash checks in Canada. It's the exact opposite of how it used to be, when players used to get traded to either the Expos or Blue Jays and take a hit. (Slam Sports)

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.

Posted on: May 3, 2011 12:33 pm

Indians' hot start setting up for division race


By Evan Brunell

With one day in the books in baseball's second month, the division leader of the AL Central has gotten off to a commanding 19-8 start, building up a 4 1/2 game lead over the second-place finisher.

Except second place is Kansas City, which is odd enough. Even odder is who is atop the Central in the Cleveland Indians, who are 9 1/2 and 10 games, respectively, ahead of the White Sox and Twins, the trendy picks to win the division in the offseason.

So far, the Indians' dominance is no fluke; they're tied with the Rangers for the AL lead in runs scored with 146 and also boast the league's third-best ERA. They're doing all this with the second-youngest roster in baseball with an average age of 27.8, and that number could get dragged down as the months go on if they promote top prospects Lonnie Chisenhall and Jason Kipnis to man third and second, respectively.

How have the Indians pulled all this off with a roster that was projected to lose over 90 games?

Simply, the Indians have benefited from production out of left field that isn't going to hold up over the entire season. Justin Masterson, for example, is doing his best Derek Lowe impersonation and has rocketed off to a 2.25 ERA start, going 5-0. Another hot performer is Josh Tomlin, who has one less win than Masterson and has registered a 2.45 ERA.

"The biggest question mark," closer Chris Perez said of the Indians coming into the season to MLB.com, "was getting quality starts, [Nos.] 1-5, and we've done that."

But here's where red flags pop up. Masterson, if he has indeed finally learned how to neutralize left-handed batters, could have taken the next big leap forward toward becoming a top starter in the league. But even if he's taken that step, a 2.25 ERA just isn't sustainable and will backslide at least a full point. Tomlin, for his part, is due a serious regression shortly. Last season, he posted a 4.56 ERA and 4.76 xFIP in 12 starts. This year, those marks are at 2.45 and 4.02, respectively. While one may have to start buying into Tomlin as a solid starting pitcher despite an 87-mph fastball, any ERA under 4.00 means Tomlin is pitching over his head.

The outlook is rosier when you turn to the hitters. Travis Hafner's .342 average simply isn't sustainable, but he remains a quality bat while Asdrubal Cabrera has jumped out to a quick start along with Grady Sizemore. These performances are far more believable, and even if some hitters regress, it will be offset by the emergence of catcher Carlos Santana and right-fielder Shin-Soo Choo once those two kick into gear. Choo and Santana are both attempting to keep their OPS's above .700 when they should be breaking .800 without a sweat. That will happen by the end of the season.

"We're not putting godly statistics up there," backup outfielder Shelley Duncan said. "And we still have a couple guys who haven't really started hitting, and we still have some young guys who are going to get better and better."

Some of those young players include Matt LaPorta, a key player in the CC Sabathia trade way back in 2008. LaPorta has failed to live up to his billing so far, but may finally be ready to cobble together a quality season at age 26, already knocking out four homers and slashing .263/.344/.513.

So yeah, the offensive production of Cleveland looks like it will hold up well, but despite a strong bullpen to date, the starting pitching looks due for a serious regression. The offense will be able to cover that up to some degree, and Alex White could end up being the team's saving grace, but for now, that can't be assumed. Currently, the Indians shape up to be a team with a talent level that of a .500 ballclub or a shade under.

Here's the rub, though -- you can't backdate true talent. That 19-8 record is in the books and cannot be changed, period. Even if the Indians play to .500 caliber the rest of the way, you're looking at around 86 victories total. That's plenty enough to capture the AL Central the way things are going. Last season, the Twins took the division with 94 wins (and that's not happening again this year) while the White Sox took second with 88 victories.

Right there, it's clear Cleveland will contend into September unless they experience a sudden and massive decline back to being a 90-loss team, but that looks out the window at this point. In addition, if the Indians are in the hunt in late July, you have to figure the club will be buyers in the trade market and could supplement the team that much more.

"Everything's really falling into place for us, if you look at it," Perez said. "It's there for the taking, but it's not going to be easy. ... It might be one of those five-team races where nobody is really leading the pack. That's why it's nice coming out to this great start, because if we do stub our toe, we could still be there.

"That's all we can ask for is to have a chance."

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed. 
Posted on: April 16, 2011 1:18 am

3 up, 3 down for 4/15: Charlie in charge

By Matt Snyder


Charlie Morton, Pirates. He was one out away from a shutout of the Reds at Great American Ball Park. Jay Bruce homered, but that didn't stop Morton from finishing the complete-game gem. He only gave up five hits and two walks while suffocating a pretty solid offense (granted, Brandon Phillips was out). He entered the game with a 2.08 ERA, but had walked 10 hitters with only three strikeouts. Friday, Morton improved significantly, striking out three to those two walks.

Justin Masterson, Indians. That ERA now reads 1.33. Masterson held down the Orioles through seven innings, only giving up four hits and a run. He has been absolutely brilliant thus far in 2011, as has his team. The Indians are 9-4 and tied for first with the Royals (what is this, the bizarro AL Central?).

Cardinals offense. Lance Berkman was supposed to be cooked, instead he's hit six home runs this week, after his two-HR night Friday. Albert Pujols was scuffling a bit to open to the season, but everyone with a brain knew it was only a matter of time. Well, that time has arrived. He's hit three homers in his past two games, including two Friday night. Colby Rasmus, Yadier Molina, David Freese and Matt Holliday are raking and the Cardinals are now the first team since the 2000 Tigers to collect at least 15 hits in four straight games. During that span, they've scored 43 runs.


Bobby Jenks, Red Sox. Pretty disgusting outing for the big man. It reads: walk, single, strikeout, single, single, single -- with a stolen base and wild pitch intertwined. He left with just 1/3 of an inning worked while having allowed four runs. The 2-10 Red Sox lost by one. But don't take my word for how bad Jenks was, you can get it straight from the horse's mouth: "I flat out stunk tonight." (Boston Herald )

Nick Blackburn, Twins. It still amazes me how quickly he nailed down a rotation spot in the spring while Kevin Slowey was sent to the bullpen. But we're past that now. Friday night, against a Rays lineup with Matt Joyce and Felipe Lopez making up the 3-4 hitters, Blackburn was shelled. He coughed up 10 hits and five earned runs in six innings, as the Twins fell to 4-9.

Erik Bedard, Mariners. I'm glad he's healthy, because no one should wish all the rehab he's gone through the past few years on anyone. Still, Bedard is clearly struggling to work back to form. He needed 106 pitches just to get through 4 2/3 innings, while giving up seven hits, three walks and four earned runs. This was against a Royals lineup sans Alex Gordon and Wilson Betemit (before you laugh, check out their numbers thus far).

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: September 11, 2010 5:15 pm
Edited on: September 11, 2010 5:25 pm

Masterson removed from rotation

Justin Masterson Justin Masterson is finished as a starter, as he is on the verge of reaching his innings limit for the season.

The report out of the Indians' Twitter account has Masterson available out of the bullpen Saturday after baffling the Angels for one run over seven innings on Tuesday.

Masterson made 28 starts, posting a 4.88 ERA in 166 innings. The groundball specialist walked four batters per nine innings, checking in with a 6.8 K/9 and struggling against left-handers thanks to throwing sidearm. A sidearm motion exposes the ball for a longer period of time to lefties and they are able to get more effective swings on the ball.

While Masterson improved his 5.31 pre-All Star Break ERA to 4.13 after the break, he still needs an out-pitch to retire lefties. Otherwise, his future is best-served in the bullpen, and the Indians will get a look at that for the rest of the season.

With Masterson's spate of recent starts, he's put himself in prime location for a 2011 starting gig -- and it doesn't hurt there aren't many pitchers standing in his way.

-- Evan Brunell

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed .

Category: MLB
Posted on: September 3, 2010 5:31 pm

Looking ahead at Indians 2011 rotation

Fausto Carmona It's possible the Indians' rotation could have five new faces in it for 2011.

Granted, Fausto Carmono would have to be traded, Justin Masterson sent to the bullpen, Carlos Carrasco back to Triple-A and even then that leaves Mitch Talbot to deal with.

Regardless, the 2011 Indians rotation has the potential to be drastically different than the five pitchers who logged the most starts: Masterson, Carmona (pictured), Talbot, Jake Westbrook and David Huff.

Huff seems to be on the outs as the organization has soured on him, plus his 6.21 ERA is rather unsightly. Masterson has struggled against left-handed batters and may be better suited to the bullpen, where he will move to shortly as he approaches his innings limit. While Masterson may be better suited in the bullpen, the Indians have so far refused to make that official switch with manager Manny Acta saying Masterson "will be sent home as a starter," reports Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer .

Then there's Carmona, who is just 26 and locked up to a deal through 2011 plus affordable club options through 2014. That made him a hot commodity at the trade deadline, and even though Carmona can log plenty of innings for the Indians in that time frame, the fact remains the Indians are one-to-two years away from even thinking about contending. Carmona is one of the team's remaining valuable trade assets, so bet on Cleveland heavily considering moving him.

The last member with a lot of starts is Mitch Talbot, who got the year off to a promising start, posting a 3.99 ERA in 17 starts, but the second half has been full of injuries and regression to the mean. Oh, and did I mention he has a 6.03 ERA at home and 2.86 mark on the road? Not exactly the model of consistency you're looking for out of a starter.

So what will happen in 2011? The guess here is that recently recalled Carlos Carrasco will find himself with a rotation spot after a successful Triple-A stint, with Talbot and Masterson joining them. Talbot is a young, cost-controllable righty who can at the very least soak up innings, while Masterson and the organization needs to come together and find a pitch to get lefties out with.

Another rotation spot will likely go to one of Jeanmar Gomez, Aaron Laffey or Josh Tomlin. Assuming Carmona is moved, the final spot would go to to a veteran right-hander who signs a deal after finding the free agent market chilly. Could that mean the return of Kevin Millwood?

-- Evan Brunell

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed .

Posted on: August 23, 2010 11:07 am
Edited on: August 23, 2010 11:09 am

Indians could expand to six-man rotation

Justin Masterson The Cleveland Indians might have a different look in their rotation come September.

Not only may the team head to a six-man rotation, but they may bounce Justin Masteron to the bullpen, according to the Akron Beacon Journal .

"Justin Masterson will probably meet his innings requirements by the second week of September,” manager Manny Acta said. "We want to limit him to about 180 innings, but he doesn’t have to get every single one of them. If we bring up a starter, Masterson could finish his innings out of the bullpen."

Masterson's future is probably out of the bullpen regardless as his first full season as starter has not gone well. He has a 5.33 ERA in 25 starts, struggling against left-handers (who have an .850 OPS against). As he showed with the Red Sox, he could be a real late-inning weapon out of the bullpen, facing just right-handers. Perhaps this is the beginning of that conversion in Cleveland.

To replace Masterson, the Indians will likely tab Carlos Carrasco, who was part of the package for Cliff Lee in 2009's trade to Philadelphia. The 23-year-old has a 3.77 ERA in 24 starts, punching out 127 in 143 innings and limiting his walks to 45. He could eventually emerge as a mid-rotation starter for the Indians.

As for who else could jump into the six-man rotation, Sheldon Ocker of the Beacon Journal says that while David Huff is an option, the team clearly isn't enamored of the left-hander. Some of it may be the Twitter incident Huff found himself in, some may be Huff's production. In 15 early starts, the 25-year-old went 2-11 with a 6.21 ERA. While he isn't wild, he makes it far too easy for the hitters to jump on his offerings and can't seem to translate his minor-league results to the bigs.

If not Huff, the team could turn to Anthony Reyes, currently winding his way back from Tommy John surgery. Reyes, acquired from the Cardinals in midseason 2008, impressed down the stretch for Cleveland before getting 2009 off to a horrible start and going under the knife. Now 28, Reyes still has the chance to become a solid starter but is likely to have the bullpen in his future.

Reyes recently had a setback in mechanics in his return, as Acta noted to the Beacon Journal .

"He's been going through some mechanical adjustments," Acta said after Reyes coughed up seven runs in one inning in Triple-A on August 11. He walked six and gave up just one hit. "This is nothing physical,'' the manager added, saying that Reyes would take the mound again August 30 most likely. Barring any setbacks, he's expected to join the big-league staff.

-- Evan Brunell

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed .
Posted on: July 23, 2010 4:22 pm

Indians add Choo, lose Laffey

Aaron Laffey The Indians were happy to welcome back outfielder Shin-Soo Choo on Friday, but the good news was tempered with bad news on left-hander Aaron Laffey.

The return of Choo, out since spraining his thumb July 2, was expected. Laffey going on the disabled list was a bit of a surprise after an MRI on his shoulder came back clean. He was scheduled to start Sunday, but the Indians are hoping extended rest will solve Laffey's "dead arm" issue.

Laffey's fastball, which is usually in the 87-89 mph range, had dropped to the 81-82 range. Laffey said the arm fatigue was a result of being switched from reliever to starter midseason.

"All the stuff I normally experience in Spring Training, I experienced when I went back as a starter [in Columbus in June]," he told MLB.com. "Now, it's just kind of lingering around."

Because of an off day Thursday, the Indians won't need to add a starter until next Tuesday. Justin Masterson will take Laffey's Sunday start on regular rest.

-- David Andriesen

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @cbssportsmlb on Twitter.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com