Cleveland Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti told ESPN’s Buster Olney recently that Shawn Marcum, the spring training invitee who has not pitched since shoulder surgery last July, is still in the mix to round out the starting rotation.
Antonetti, interviewed on Olney’s podcast last Friday, named Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco and Josh Tomlin as the other three pitchers competing for a spot. We knew about those three, but it was a surprise to hear Marcum described as still being dealt in at the table.
It would be more than a surprise to see Marcum pitch and pitch well enough to make it pay off.
Signed in December to a one-year minor league deal that included an invite and a chance to compete, Marcum was a horrendous 1-10 with a 5.29 ERA in 12 starts prior to his mid-season injury in 2013.
Marcum has 58 career wins, and aside from being injured following Tommy John surgery in 2009, went 42-26 with a 3.56 ERA in 110 starts from 2008 to 2012, prior to signing with the Mets for $4 million in the off season.
Numbness in his pitching hand led to the poor first half in 2013, which led to surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome. The Missouri native can help this team – no doubt, but I’m not sure there is enough time for him to show it before the season begins March 31, and the competition has become stiff.
Tomlin, still proving himself somewhat since coming back from Tommy John surgery last year has upped the ante, dealing a 1-0 record with a 2.57 ERA in 14 innings this spring. Tomlin has new-found speed on his fastball, has fanned 14 and walked only one. Tomlin’s career strikeouts per nine innings is 4.92. He has nearly doubled that this spring. Even so, after not having pitched regularly in the minors since 2010, with options left, many folks have Tomlin destined to start the year in the minors. I’m not so sure.
Bauer is an enigma. Having spent 2013 working on various mechanics over stints in Cleveland and Columbus, including one disastrous start where he pitched entirely out of the stretch, it was thought the former third overall pick of the 2011 draft was straightened out. That thought has dried up in the desert. Bauer is 0-1 with a 10.29 ERA, walking five while striking out eight in eight frames. Inconsistent pitching has eaten into Bauer’s chances, and he’ll very likely spend much of 2014 in Columbus.
Carrasco is the wild card. The hard-throwing from Venezuela is aggressive on the mound, having been suspended twice for throwing at batters and losing his composure. The problem Carrasco presents is that he is seen as a favorite of manager Terry Francona’s all because of that competitiveness and fire, while not yet showing he can be trusted to pitch in the rotation regularly.
The 26-year-old began 2013 in the Indians rotation, and after being shuffled back and forth between Columbus and Cleveland because of ineffectiveness and amateurish behavior, he finally found solace in the bullpen. The final piece from the Cliff Lee trade five years ago still in the organization went 1-0 in with a 1.32 ERA, in eight outings of relief over 13.2 innings. Carrasco has yet to pitch more than three innings in a game this spring, but has pitched well, going 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA and nine strikeouts in seven innings. His WHIP is 1.00. It’s getting to the point where pitchers start to stretch out their innings prior to breaking camp. If Carrasco doesn’t go too long in his next outing, Francona will have played his hand.
Marcum was a good gamble for $1 million if he is added to the forty man roster, and if he does pitch well will likely see significant time in Cleveland this year, but it won’t be out of spring training. I’m betting Bauer and Marcum get sent to Columbus, Tomlin starts at the back end of the rotation, and Carrasco fine tunes his emotional irregularities in the bullpen.