Stephanie Storm’s final thoughts on Monday’s opener of the Indians/Yankees series at Progressive Field – the Justin Masterson edition.
1) You’re probably as tired of hearing about Masterson’s struggles on the mound as much as I am of writing about it. Yet, there’s no getting around it: The Indians have to do something with big right-hander who had another short outing - i.e. - he didn’t make it through three innings. Again.
2) Masterson is averaging just 3 2/3 innings over his last five starts. Over his last three, he owns a 13.00 ERA. Looking at the bigger picture, eight of his starts this season have lasted less than five innings.
3) His latest debacle led to a 5-3 Indians loss – all five runs coming via the five Masterson spotted them between three in the second inning and two more in the third.
The 6-foot-6, 250-pounder’s troubles began in a second inning that deteriorated quickly: Brian McCann double. Brian Roberts double. Ichiro Suzuki single. Kelly Johnson walk. Francisco Cervelli hit by pitch. Mound visit by Tribe pitching coach Mickey Callaway.
If not for a highlight-reel and unique double play turned by first baseman Carlos Santana and catcher Yan Gomes with the bases loaded, the score likely would have been a lot worse.
4) But what’s worse than the actual damage on the board during the big guy’s slump is what it’s doing to the bullpen start after start. Monday night, Indians manager Terry Francona was able to spread the innings around, using five relievers. In fact, the five –Kyle Crockett, Carlos Carrasco, Mark Rzepczynski, Vinnie Pestano and John Axford – combined to shutout the Yankees the rest of the way, combining for six hits – the same amount Masterson gave up in two-plus.
5) Masterson’s comments after the game indicate he’s no closer to fixing this thing than he was a month ago.
“I think I feel good,” Masterson said. “I just don’t know. Who knows? It’s one of those where (his delivery) is a tick (off). You’re so close and yet you’re so far away. I felt like tonight was going to be such a great one. We had a great bullpen session, got some good things in.”
Once again, the mechanics that seem solid in the bullpen aren’t translating to the game, where it counts most.
Even the patient Francona seems to exasperated with the on-going Masterson saga.
“We’ll sit and talk to Masty,” he said of the club’s former All-Star. “…That’s really all I have.”
6) That’s because they’ve tried everything else – extra rest, his start moved back a few days, treatment for a sore right knee that Masterson admitted recently has been bothering him since early in the season, extra bullpen sessions, more video analysis. One session after another with pitching coach guru Callaway.
7) There’s really only one thing left to do, which the Indians staff and front office have obviously tried to avoid: putting Masterson on the disabled list in the hope that the break from the action gives him time to take a step back mentally and physically.