The ups and downs continue as the taste of getting swept by the Rays AT HOME is finally starting to leave the mouth after watching the Tribe take the first game from the Rangers and the Gambler last night. Lots on my mind, so here come some tomahawks:
- Watching Howry work the eighth, in free and easy fashion, lead me to believe that he's the front-runner to close for the Tribe next year. He's closed before and Shapiro went on record to say that he's not going to throw a rookie into the closer role (sorry, JDangerously and the F-Cab), which means it's either Wickman, promoting a bullpen arm under contract for 2006 (Rhodes/Riske - both of whom have closed with disastrous results), re-sign Howry while giving him closer money, or signing a FA. As Let's Go Tribe wrote, I think that Sticky's arm is shot and he's currently saving games on guts and guile. Local 26 also doesn't strike me as the type to stick around just for the paycheck. As for promoting Rhodes or Riske, not only does that option look the scariest, it also means you weaken the pen by needing a new set-up guy (those in the Rocky Betancourt and F-Cab corner are OK with that, but it's too early). Looking at recent FA closers (Percival, Urbina, Benitez), the best two words are "Buyer Beware". And so, you're left with giving Howry a nice contract and letting him save for 2 years, until Cabrera is ready to take the reins (a la Anaheim & K-Rod of the past few years). Plus, Howry's got good stuff, rarely gets rattled, looks like a bit of a bad ass out there, and has closer experience. Bottom line - Give Wicky a shot if he wants it, but keep Howry's agent on speed dial.
- How great has Honey Peralta looked? He's suddenly a solid 3 hitter in this lineup and seems to be getting more comfortable; not only at the plate (where he's scorching), but also in the field (where he realizes that he no longer needs to be Omar). The only uncertainty with Peralta is whether he'll eventually outgrow SS and make the move to his right to be a 3B of the future. To me, I'd rather have a left side of Boone/Gatreau/Kouzmanoff & Peralta than Peralta and Phillips/Torres/Ochoa in the next few years, if only for the fact that most 3B are going to be more productive offensively. For now, let's enjoy the maturation and development of a special talent.
- It looks like the bell has tolled for Benny Broussard. Limited to being a late inning defensive replacement, he may as well put the house on the market. As good as his swing normally looks, it's too bad that Ben can't seem to put together enough consistency to force himself into the future (the way that Coco and Westbrook have in the last 2 years). As I've said before, don't be surprised if Broussard is packaged with a young pitcher or pitchers (Traber/Dittler) to a team that would like to have a solid defensive 1B and young arms (Boston) in exchange for an outfielder (Trot Nixon?).
- It seems as if the Atomic Wedgie has a longer leash on C.C. when it comes to pressure situations. Last night was a perfect example as Michael Young strode to the plate with men on first and third and one out. The Crooked Cap had thrown about 100 pitchers, but Wedge let him pitch to the righty. C.C. responded by getting the 6-4-3 to end the inning, but it seems that Wedge wants Sabathia to learn from these situations (remember pitching from the wind-up lesson in NY last year?) more so than the other pitchers. There is some merit to it, as well. Every time Westbrook or Millwood (two pitchers who handle adversity well) are asked how they stay so calm in tough sitiuations, the answer invariably is that experience is the only way to cope and learn how to deal with the pressure cooker of a potential big inning. We must remember that the Hefty Lefty is only 24 and still needs some refinement to become a pitcher, as opposed to a thrower. Maybe there is a method to Wedgie's madness.
- An off-season name to watch for the Tribe: Lyle Overbay. He's keeping 1B warm for Prince Fielder in Milwaukee, so the Brewers will probably look to move him. He would fit into the lineup very well as a LH bat to hit 6th after The Stick, while providing some stability to 1B. Is he going to make the splash that acquiring Ken Griffey Jr. would make? No, but he's unquestionably a better target for this team. Acquiring him and a solid RF would go a long way to filling out the lineup.
- Shapiro's comment that Garko is hitting under .200 against leftys in Buffalo is baffling. He's a RH stick that can't hit lefties, and crushes righties? Further explanation is needed on this one.
The Tribe got the tough arm out of the way last night in the Gambler, so hopefully they can make a move on the suddenly scuffling A's.