The look on Mickey Callaway’s face told Justin Masterson all he needed to know Wednesday afternoon about his future with the club.
While working out on an exercise bike in the bowels of Progressive Field, Masterson was summoned into a meeting with pitching coach Callaway, the pair walking into a room where Indians president Mark Shapiro, General Manager Chris Antonetti and manager Terry Francona were waiting.
“I said, ‘Uh oh. I’m either going to get beat or I’m getting traded somewhere,’” Masterson said.
The big right-hander soon learned it was the later, as the men explained Masterson had been traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for highly touted outfield prospect James Ramsey.
Ramsey, 24, was the Cardinals first-round selection (23rd overall) in the 2012 draft out of Florida State. Antonetti said he will report to Triple-A Columbus.
“He’s an athletic outfielder, a left-handed hitter who has played centerfield, can play the corners and was recently in the Future’s Game,” Antonetti said. “(He) has a good approach at the plate with a little bit of power, and (he’s) a guy we think will contribute at the major league level.”
Masterson, the Tribe’s Opening Day starter for the last three seasons, suddenly morphed into a huge disappointment this year – not only in living up to his role as the team’s ace, but in his inability to pitch effectively at all.
In 19 starts, Masterson, 29, was 4-6 with a 5.51 ERA – the second worst ERA in the major leagues with pitchers with 19 starts or more. Most disappointing was that Masterson showed no signs of being able to straighten out his delivery mechanics that had gotten so out of whack, he issued six walks in a rehab start last week at Triple-A Columbus.
Masterson’s impending free agency and inability to agree on terms on a long-term deal with the Indians during spring training didn’t help his cause, either.
“…The year has not unfolded the way any of us anticipated for Justin,” Antonetti said. “It’s been a little bit of a struggle to date. But it gives him an opportunity for a fresh start in the National League, and it’s an opportunity to get somebody who we think will help us moving forward.”
What made Masterson’s downward spiral so stunning is that just last season he won 14 games, owned a 3.45 ERA and represented the Indians in the All-Star game. But with his patented sinker stinking and an unexplained drop in velocity this season even had Callaway scratching his head as to how to help.
“If it were easy to put our finger on it, we would have been able to work successfully with Masty to turn it around sooner,” Antonetti said. “But I know he has worked incredibly hard alongside Mickey Callaway, (bullpen coach) Kevin Cash and (Francona) to try and get him back on track to the pitcher we’ve seen in the past.
“It’s just, to date, it hasn’t happened. Hopefully with him transitioning and getting a fresh start with a new league and a new team that he can have the success he’s had in the past.”
While the Indians will call up left-hander T.J. House to take Masterson’s spot in the rotation (Monday’s off day allows House to start Saturday, while Danny Salazar will pitch Friday), Masterson is scheduled to make his debut for the Cardinals Saturday.
“I was surprised (the trade) took place,” Masterson admitted. “But (I) understand and see it. Now, it’s bittersweet. (I’m) sad to leave the fellas, but excited to get to St. Louis and looking forward to what they have got going.”