I bet this title has you a little confused. A series preview? The series is already 1/3 over! Yes, I know. Thanks to my inattentiveness, I missed the tweet I got from Brian Heise, editor over at Fansided’s Indians site, Wahoo’s On First.I saw it yesterday afternoon, by which time it was too late to get a preview up in a timely manner. In any event, he was kind enough to answer a few of my questions that might help you become better acquainted with the Indians. I also answered a few questions for him, and you can find them on Wahoo’s On First sometime this morning.
Jun 14, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson (5) watches the game in the first inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
AF: The Indians signed the most compensation-bound free agents of any team this offseason, sacrificing their second and third round picks to get Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher. The team also made other high-profile additions with Mark Reynolds and manager Terry Francona. What kind of impact have these newcomers made?
BH: They’ve had a huge impact from day one of spring training. With all of them on board it just felt like this team had a different vibe. We immediately felt like the front office was going all in and actually making moves to guarantee improvement rather than signing washed up veterans and hoping for lightning in a bottle. On the field it’s also been a huge difference. The lineup finally feels whole and like a major league caliber lineup. Sure, they’ve had their ups and downs (what team hasn’t?), but Francona has been the calming voice that this team has lacked in years past to right the ship. We’re not even half way through the season and already he’s paid huge dividends. Such a huge change from Manny Acta.
AF: Ubaldo Jimenez has been inconsistent ever since he was acquired from the Rockies a few years ago. One night he’ll dazzle, and the next he’ll get lit up. Do you think he’ll ever be able to return to his ace form, and if so, how?
Jun 12, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez (30) throws during the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
BH: This has been a constant issue of debate within the ranks of Wahoo’s on First for some time now. To be honest, I don’t think we’ve spent more time analyzing any other player on the roster. This season has been much better than the past two seasons by leaps and bounds. Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway have really been pushing the process of reinventing Ubaldo. Focusing on strikes, keeping the ball in the zone, and focusing on quality of pitches and innings over quantity. It’s been all about building his confidence and getting him out of games before the wheels have a chance to fall off. So far the results have been there, now Ubaldo just needs to keep it up.
AF: The Indians were in the thick of the AL Central race before losing eight straight recently, but still sit only 4.5 games back. What do you think their chances are in the divison, going up against the Tigers and Royals?
BH: Despite the recent cold spell, I still think this team has a chance to compete for the division crown. Everyone is focusing on the eight game losing streak, but before that they won something ridiculous like 14 out of 18 games. If they can get on another hot streak they can definitely catch the Tigers or even pass them up. The biggest issue is going to be the pitching staff. We knew this team would score runs, but there was always some doubt about our starters. They’ve far exceeded expectations and even still, I’m not sure we have complete confidence in them yet. It should be fun to see how it plays out, though.
AF: The Trevor Bauer acquisition was one of the biggest stories of the Indians’ offseason, with many believing he was a total steal. He pitched well in three starts, except for some control issues he had, before going back to AAA. What are your expectations for him? Can he become the ace some see in him?
May 1, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Trevor Bauer (47) throws a pitch during the fourth inning against the Philadelphia Phillies during the game at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Eric P. Mull-USA TODAY Sports
BH: What do I expect from Trevor Bauer? You mean other than continuing to provide us with awesome intro music for our podcast, Wahoo’s on the Mic? Well, I fully expect him to be a mainstay in our rotation next season and our ace by the year after that. In the simplest way possible I guess you could say the expectations couldn’t possibly get any higher. We expect huge things out of him. He has a dynamite fastball and his curve ball is absolutely wicked. If he could just harness his control and limit the walks he could be absolutely awesome. I don’t think fans of other teams realize how good he could end up being. If he reaches his full potential, watch out.
AF: What are your predictions for this series?
BH: Well, I already know the Indians won tonight, but in all honesty my expectations were pretty low. The Tribe took two of three from the Rangers, which was great for morale, but I’m still not 100% they’re out of their slump. Combine that with the three pitchers taking the mound for the Nats this weekend and I would have been tempted to say that they sweep the Indians. So, I guess with tonight’s outcome decided I’ll say that Washington takes the next two behind solid outings from Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg. It should be fun a fun weekend, though. Washington isn’t a team I watch a whole lot, so it’ll be a nice change of pace.