It’s been a good start for the Indians, who still led the Central Division by 2½ games after Cliff Lee got shelled — AGAIN — in a series-opening loss to Cincinnati on Friday night.
Cleveland general manager Mark Shapiro’s offseason acquisitions? Not so much ... at least through the first 59 games of the season. Shapiro pretty much shot blanks on his annual winter hunting trip.
Josh Barfield, second base, (.246, 2 HRs, 29 RBIs, 55 games): Let’s start with one of the positives. Though Barfield has struggled to adapt to American League pitching, he has been, far and away, the Indians’ best infielder, showing flashes of Robbie Alomar — I said flashes! — to contribute in a different department. He’s hitting better as of late and odds are good this will be one the new guys Shapiro can pat himself on the back for landing when the season is complete.
Joe Borowski, closer, (0-2, 6.95 ERA, 17 saves): OK, Bob Wickman’s replacement has converted 17 of 19 save opportunities and has led the league for most of the season. But how many times can you remember him retiring the side in order? Borowski allows runs in too many outings — check out his sparkling ERA — and baserunners in practically all of them. It’s not the kind of style you want from a reliever, let alone your closer. And don’t tell me that manager Eric Wedge doesn’t have a lump in his throat when Borowski is on the mound with a one-run lead in the ninth inning.
Aaron Fultz, relief pitcher, (3-0, 1.65 ERA, 28 games): When he’s not walking the first batter he faces with the bases loaded, the situational left-hander has been effective. But eight walks through 161/3 innings ... c’mon. What’s the sense of matching him up with a dangerous lefty if he’s just going to put him on anyway? Retired lefty assassin Paul Assenmacher is rolling over in his beachfront hammock.
Trot Nixon, right field, (.268, 2 HRs, 22 RBIs, 47 games): The rugged veteran, who is months removed from back surgery, got off to a solid start but has lagged at the plate recently, and with old legs, gives the team little defensively. The push from young outfielders Franklin Gutierrez and Shin-Soo Choo that was expected to come at some point this season is under way, with Gutierrez playing well in his second stint at the big league level this year and Choo picking up steam at Triple-A Buffalo.
Roberto Hernandez, relief pitcher, (3-1, 5.87, 25 games): He’s one of the classiest guys in the game, but the aging reliever looks like he’s pretty much running on fumes right now. Hernandez would likely already be on his way to retirement, or at least another team, had Matt Miller’s rehabilitation from a forearm strain not gone slower than anticipated. If and when Miller, who is at Buffalo, is ready to return, Hernandez will be on borrowed time in an Indians uniform.
David Dellucci, left field, (.247, 2 HRs, 13 RBIs, 45 games): This guy has been, for lack of a better word, terrible. Along with Barfield, he was one of Shapiro’s most high-profiled (albeit a modest one) winter signings, and he’s making the GM look bad thus far. The Indians could have gotten the same production from Dellucci’s platoon mate, Jason Michaels, and they wouldn’t have had to pay $11.5 million over three years for it.
This season could be a pretty good ride for the Indians, maybe a great one. The team has starting pitching and plenty of offense, but these guys need to start pulling their weight or else make reservations for another trip.
Rant of the week
After covering major league baseball for just short of 10 years, I’m convinced that there are no errors — at least far too few.
Official scorers across the board — not all of them, mind you — are reluctant to credit players with errors on what appears to most in the press box (and I’m sure, anyone watching the game) to be obvious fielding mistakes.
In my humble opinion, it’s because most fear the wrath they’ll face from clubs’ public relations departments, which push for beneficial rulings, and managers who, inconceivably and unfortunately, traditionally take time from the game to call the press box and complain about a call.
Man up, scorers! These guys are professional baseball players. That means they should, at least, be held to the same standards as college kids. I’m not asking for unfairly hard lines for big leaguers, but if a fielder should have made the play, it’s an error, isn’t it?
Contact Chris Assenheimer at at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.