Eleven thoughts for Michael Brantley’s team-leading 11 hits this spring, even though he went 0 for 3 at The Ballpark at Camelback Ranch.
1. The battle for the final spot in the rotation seems to be coming down to Josh Tomlin or Carlos Carrasco. Most presume Carrasco will earn the spot because he’s out of minor league options, while Tomlin has three remaining. But if Tomlin continues to pitch as smoothly and efficiently as he did Friday against the White Sox, the Indians may have a tougher decision to make than they expected.
2. Logic says the pick will be Carrasco because of the option situation and because he has better stuff. But the heart says Tomlin.
3. Not only has Tomlin bounced back from elbow reconstruction in August, 2012, but his velocity has increased to 93 mph and his breaking ball has more power. That presumably is a result of weight-lifting or some sort of dedicated workouts during his rehab.
4. It’s hard not to like Tomlin, a personable 29-year-old Texan who said, “Yes, ma’am” to me last year. I haven’t heard it this spring, but I haven’t talked to Tomlin alone. The Indians selected him in the 19th round of the 2006 draft. He seems like the consummate underdog.
5. But more than that, he was also a solid starter for the Indians before his surgery. He has a 23-19 major league record with a 4.92 ERA in 343.2 innings over 60 games, including 54 starts. He’s struck out 188 and walked only 65.
6. It almost seems headline-worthy when Tomlin walks someone – it’s happened only twice in 14 innings of four spring appearances. That’s the essence of not beating yourself.
7. Tomlin also seems to have endurance. He said he wasn’t at all tired in the fifth inning, when he gave up back-to-back home runs to Conor Gillaspie and Josh Phegley. “Gillaspie, I was trying to cut the ball in there. He did a good job of dropping the head (of the bat) on it and hitting a home run,” Tomlin said. “The curve ball to Phegley, that one just caught too much plate. I was trying to get that to more of a chase pitch and it kind of stayed up in the zone.”
8. Francona didn’t think Tomlin ran out of gas, either. “Every pitcher as they start to get extended, that’s the reason you do it like you do it, they’re going to get pushed a little bit,” Francona said. “He still had pitches, so he went down and threw in the pen. The ups and downs are maybe as important as the pitch count, coming in, sitting down, going back out. As you start to get stretched out that last inning you start to feel it.”
10. When it comes to picking the final starter, Francona said he will not look for a different style of pitcher. As it stands now, their top eight starters are right-handers, so that will not be a factor. “I’m not sure I’ve ever really fallen into that, flip and get a lefty in there, split your … I’d much rather have guys in there who can get outs,” Francona said.
10. In the crazy Tribe clubhouse department, infielder Mike Aviles said he avoided
any major gags Thursday on his 33rd birthday. “That’s why I stayed quiet all day,” he said. “Then when I left I said, ‘Too late now.’”
11. The Indians have three more games remaining where Francona can try instant replay for the first time, including two against the Reds on Monday and on April 24. The other is a split squad contest against the Cubs Sunday in Mesa. Francona said he’d planned to go to the other game against the San Francisco Giants in Scottsdale, but changed his mind. “I can’t trust Millsie with that,” Francona said of bench coach Brad Mills. “And you can write that.”