Cleveland Baseball Weekly: Early season pitching woeful

Cleveland Indians starter Carlos Carrasco pitches in the first inning against the New York Yankees at Progressive Field on Tuesday, April 9, 2013, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Phil Masturzo/Akron Beacon Journal/MCT)

Cleveland Indians starter Carlos Carrasco pitches in the first inning against the New York Yankees at Progressive Field on Tuesday, April 9, 2013, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Phil Masturzo/Akron Beacon Journal/MCT)

Jim Piascik

Things went south for Cleveland over the past week, as the team dropped four of seven games and fell to 3-5 on the year. Losing four of seven games is far from the end of the world, but it is the manner in which Cleveland lost that is concerning long-term.

As many observed after a major overhaul of the lineup this offseason, the one massive weakness of this team remains the starting pitching. Eight games in, that weakness has reared its ugly head again and again.

So, about that starting rotation…

The good news is that through two starts, Justin Masterson has locked down opposing lineups, going 13.0 innings while allowing just one run. That level of dominance is not sustainable, but at least Masterson got off on the right foot in 2013.

Which is not the case for the rest of the rotation.

In fairness, Zach McAllister’s outing on Friday was satisfactory, as he only allowed two earned runs in six innings. Of course, that ignores the two unearned runs McAllister allowed in, a reoccurring problem he has faced over his career. McAllister routinely is unable to pick up his defense, allowing the most unearned runs in baseball last year.

Until he can become more consistent when things go wrong, McAllister will always be a little worse than his ERA shows. But despite his problems, at least McAllister was adequate.

Further from adequate was Ubaldo Jimenez. Bad Ubaldo showed up to the home opener Monday, as the right-hander imploded en route to allowing seven runs in 4 1/3 innings. Jimenez pitched much better in his first outing of the year, but alternating good and bad starts will not cut it.

For Cleveland to have any prayer of a playoff spot, Masterson and Jimenez will have to carry this rotation. Considering that Jimenez currently owns a 6.97 ERA and 6.41 FIP in his first two starts puts a damper on that idea coming to fruition.

But for all the handwringing over Jimenez, Brett Myers is playing a much bigger role in torpedoing the starting rotation. In Myers’ first start of the year, he allowed seven runs — and four home runs — in five innings. He then followed that up by allowing seven more runs — including three more home runs — in 5 1/3 innings.

Needless to say, this kind of production is not what the front office had in mind when they signed Myers to a $7 million contract this offseason. With so much of the payroll already invested in Myers, the team will have to keep starting him and hope he finds a way to turn it around. There is no promise that he will find it again, however, leaving the rotation’s outlook bleak.

Myers’ second outing actually came in relief of Carlos Carrasco, but this was not a case of a young pitcher forcing the veteran to the bullpen. On the contrary, Carrasco completely fell apart Tuesday, allowing seven runs in 3 2/3 innings and getting ejected for throwing at Yankees third baseman Kevin Youkilis’ head. This was Carrasco’s first start after being suspended for throwing at Royals designated hitter Billy Butler’s head back in 2011, and Carrasco could feasibly be facing another suspension for headhunting.

Carrasco has plenty of upside, but if he continually cannot control his emotions on the mound, he will be of no use to manager Terry Francona. It does not shock me one bit that Carrasco was sent to the minors today.

Rounding out the bumbling rotation, top pitching prospect Trevor Bauer showed the issues he still needs to work through when he was called up for a spot start on Saturday, walking the first four batters he faced and seven total. Bauer battled through five innings while only allowing three runs, but he still is pretty far away from being the top-of-the-rotation starter he is capable of being.

All told, starting pitchers not named Masterson have combined for an 8.46 ERA, 10 home runs allowed and 16 walks in 35 1/3 innings.

No matter how much offense Cleveland gets, if the starting rotation does not pick it up, it will be another long season. Eight games into the season, the final 154 are looking pretty long.

Contact Jim Piascik at [email protected] and @JimPiascik.