Editor’s note: The game between the Indians and Los Angeles Angels ended too late for this edition. For details on the outcome, please check our website at Ohio.com/indians.
ANAHEIM, Calif.: The Indians have had two basic problems this season: an erratic group of starting pitchers and an offense that too often fades into mediocrity or worse.
The top five batters in the lineup generally have done their jobs: Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Santana and Michael Brantley.
Even then, there’s not a hitter among them that scares opposing pitchers, a guy who causes rival managers to order up an intentional walk to avoid getting beat on one swing of the bat.
Travis Hafner was supposed to be that guy, but he has been on the disabled list twice this year and has never recaptured the power strike he had in 2008, before he was sabotaged by a series of injuries.
Moreover, after the first five batters have come and gone, the Tribe is bereft of consistently productive batsmen.
These days, manager Manny Acta picks from among the following to fill out his lineup: Jack Hannahan, Casey Kotchman, Shelley Duncan, Jason Donald, Lou Marson, Brent Lillibridge and Ezequiel Carrera.
“It’s no secret that we have to improve the offense,” Acta said, speaking of next season. “We have to find a solution in left field, first base and designated hitter. Third base also is not determined, because Lonnie Chisenhall has a broken arm. Guys who are here now are doing what they can, but we need to do better.”
Part of the blame for the team’s 11-game losing streak that ended little more than a week ago was the unproductivity of the bottom of the lineup combined with bad timing.
A couple of guys in the top half of the order went into a slump, leaving the club with three or four hitters worthy of the name.
“If the rest of the lineup is not producing, then you see the problem,” Acta said. “That’s why you have to have more than four guys who are hitting.”
How can General Manager Chris Antonetti fill that many holes and upgrade the rotation in one offseason? He probably can’t, but that doesn’t mean some of the Indians’ personnel problems can’t be fixed.
“Ideally, you want the help to come from within,” Acta said.
Again, that would be a tall order, considering that the farm system has no premier prospects in Triple-A or Double-A. But there are a few players who are worth a look. On Sept. 1, rosters can be expanded to 40, and at least a few hitters will be summoned from Columbus.
“There will be only spots to give people at-bats,” Acta cautioned about the September call-ups. “Being on the 40-man roster also will have something to do with it.”
Of the likely candidates for promotion, Lars Anderson, Russ Canzler, Matt LaPorta, Cord Phelps and Vinnie Rottino are on the 40-man roster. But Tim Fedroff and Jared Goedert are not. Fedroff, a 24-year-old outfielder, began the season at Akron and after batting .305 for the Aeros was kicked up to Triple-A, where he is hitting .333 in 188 at-bats.
Goedert, 27, has been in the Tribe’s system for several years but hasn’t drawn much attention as a future big-leaguer. However, he is batting .292 with 15 doubles, 10 home runs and 47 RBI in 257 at-bats.
Whether the front office would consider it important enough to give these two players spots on the 40-man roster for a September look is the question.