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Cleveland Indians

Masterson: Should he be a starter?

By Sheldon Published: September 24, 2009

CLEVELAND: Manager Eric Wedge says Justin Masterson is a starter, which fits with Masterson's career plans. ¶
But the experiment to determine whether Masterson can maintain enough consistency to be in the Indians' rotation seems inconclusive. In Masterson's past two outings, he gave up 11 earned runs in eight innings. In the two starts before that, he allowed only two earned runs in 12 innings. ¶
""I feel strong about it,'' said Wedge, affirming his belief Thursday that Masterson should start. ""The easiest thing for us to do would be to use him out of the bulllpen. But when someone has a chance to be at least a middle-of-the-rotation guy, you have to explore it.'' ¶
That's what Masterson wants to hear. ¶
""Where I see myself is as a guy who needs to get back to throwing strikes,'' Masterson said. ""Whether I start or relieve, that's what I have to do. For now, I look at myself as a starter. I like the idea of starting. The only thing holding me back is controlling the strike zone.'' ¶
Command has been an issue. Since being traded by the Red Sox for Victor Martinez July 31, Masterson has walked 33 in 481/3 innings. ¶
""In the bullpen, you can get lucky,'' he said. ""When you throw an inning or two, you might struggle a little, but you can lock it in and get guys out.'' ¶
One thing that Masterson must overcome is size. It's difficult for a pitcher who stands 6-foot-6 to keep his arms and legs working together. ¶
""I'm a bigger guy, and I'm, flexible,'' he said. ""So things are going everywhere. Things are spinning all over the place.'' ¶
Another issue is the lack of a consistent off-speed pitch. ¶
""I think the changeup is a nice pitch, but to put all my eggs in one basket -- I've been successful without it. If I can control my fastball and my sinker, I can use the changeup four or five times a game to keep the hitters from cheating.'' ¶
As as reliever, Masterson didn't need an off-speed pitch and threw the changeup only in the bullpen, so he doesn't always have confidence in the pitch. ¶
""They've talked about me throwing it more, and that's not always fun,'' Masterson said. ""Sometimes I'll start overthinking the changeup, then I bring it to Miguel Cabrera, and he hits it pretty far.'' ¶
That happened Wednesday night against the Tigers. ¶
It was mentioned that it must be difficult for a pitcher who throws 96 miles per hour to trust a pitch that travels 75 mph. ¶
""You want to make sure you throw it slow,'' Masterson said, ""so you slow your arm down. Of course, that's not what you want to do. '' ¶
ANOTHER MEETING -- Less than two weeks ago, manager Eric Wedge called the Indians together for what amounts to a pep talk. ¶
The club was losing, and he wanted everyone to keep his head up. The team has kept right on losing, and Thursday Wedge called another meeting. ¶
""I just want them to back off a little,'' he said. ""You still have to have fun and be loose to be at your best. You have to relax and play, focus in on the moment and let everything else take care of itself.'' ¶
You would think that a man who might be fired in less than two weeks wouldn't worry about whether his youthful charges feeling upbeat near the end of a lost season. ¶
""The last two times he's talked to us, he's been very positive,'' said Trevor Crowe, one of the Tribe's rookies. ""It's always about the players. ¶
""To me personally, I feel like he's been supportive, and that he's got my back as a manager. He's really making the best of the situation he's in. I would be sad to see him go.'' ¶
WELCOME WAGON ON THE WAY -- The news that Shaquille O'Neal is moving into Wedge's development in Richfield was not news to Wedge. ¶
""I've heard it from everybody,'' he said. ""I'm trying to stay under the radar.'' ¶
Will O'Neal be living near Wedge? ¶
""Close,'' he said with a smile. ¶
LAPORTA UPDATE -- Matt LaPorta (left hip inflammation) did not start Thursday night, but he's getting close. ¶
""He's better,'' Wedge said. ""He's taking BP, and he should play tomorrow.'' ¶
LaPorta's hip was sound enough for him to pinch hit Thursday night if needed but not to play in the field. ¶

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