Reinstated OF Ryan Ludwick and C Josh Bard from the 60-day Disabled List; Optioned them to Buffalo (AAA)
Transferred RHSP Joe Dawley to the 60-day Disabled List (elbow)
Designated LHRP Scott Stewart (AAA) for Assignment
This looks more complicated than it actually is. The Indians used up the block of time allowable on Bard's and Ludwick's rehab assignments, which is around 3 weeks. Therefore, they had to activate them from the disabled list. This meant the Indians had to clear two spots on the 40-man roster, since the two were formerly on the 60-day Disabled List.
One move was fairly easy; Joe Dawley probably isn't going to pitch in Cleveland the rest of the season, judging by the nature of his injury (elbow), the lack of progress reports, and the appearance of more appealing candidates (Tadano, Denney).
However, clearing the other spot wasn't going to be easy. The Indians for the past couple of years have had 40-man rosters chock full of good young talent, and very few, shall we say, fungible, players. Rick White might be that kind of a player on a team with a better bullpen, but that team isn't the 2004 Indians. Corey Smith is playing his way off the roster, but it's probably too soon to make a rash judgment on a player that young. So the Indians cut bait on Scott Stewart, and recognized a sunk cost when they saw one. Stewart's numbers were as awful in Buffalo as they were in Cleveland. A team with a free roster spot might want to take a shot at Stewart and hope he works out a year or so down the line, but he isn't going to help anyone this year. If he does clear waivers, I'm fairly certain the Indians can outright him to Buffalo without his permission. Still, that doesn't dull the pain of seeing Ryan Church light up the International League.
Good news is on the way for the beleaguered bullpen. Bob Howry is back from injury, and to this point looks healthy and effective. Bob Wickman may return this week, or at the very least, after the All-Star Break. And Rafael Betancourt should be back after his 15 days on the DL are up. So what will the bullpen look like in two weeks? Here's my view:
CL David Riske
RP Rafael Betancourt
RP Matt Miller
RP Bob Howry
RP Bob Wickman
RP Rick White
LM Kaz Tadano
This probably means Jeriome Robertson, who was pretending to be a LOOGY, will be optioned back to Buffalo to presumedly start, and Jose Jimenez will be shown the door. Yes, you're left with 7 right-handed pitchers, but what's the use of keeping a left-hander around if he can't get left-handers out? Riske and Betancourt don't have too many troubles with lefties, and Matt Miller is probably the one guy you don't want facing a left-hander.
Not Selling, But What About Buying?
Mark Shapiro said over the weekend that the team wasn't going to unload any players, regardless of what happens over the month of July. This is probably a good thing, as the last thing the local media needs is more ammunition for the Dolan is Cheap! movement. And secondly, there isn't much to "sell;" the most attractive tradable commodity would have been Ronnie Belliard, but as we've found out recently, he's not a free agent after the season.
The bigger question has become, therefore, will the Indians be buyers? Shapiro has set a couple games over .500 as the mark where he feels the Indians will be contenders, and therefore be looking to acquire players in order to win the division. Given the upcoming schedule, it's not likely for the Indians to be above .500 in a couple weeks:
July 6-8 Texas
July 9-11 Oakland
July 15-18 @Seattle
July 19-20 @Anaheim
Texas and Oakland are playing extremely well now, and it might be too late for the Indians to get to contender status by the time they reach Seattle. And given who the Indians are looking at, standing pat doesn't seem such a bad idea. Of course, Minnesota and Chicago continue to tease the rest of the division by playing mediocre baseball, but you'd have to think one or the other is going to go on a run shortly. Meanwhile, the Indians are still ahead of schedule as far the rebuilding plan goes, and the added fan interest garnered by near-contention is an added bonus. Now it's up to Larry Dolan to spend the money like he promised during the off-season.