Mailbag: A closer look at Tribe closers

Mailbag: A closer look at Tribe closers

The time has come for me to leave the country.

No, I am not wanted in 27 of the 50 states (the tally is much, much smaller than that), and I'm not fleeing back taxes or credit-card bills.

Rather, it is merely vacation time for this Tribe scribe. For the next week and a half, I'll be wining and dining in Italy, the birthplace of such noted historical figures as Galileo Galilei, Leonardo da Vinci and William Castrovince (I'll save you the trouble of Googling him and just tell you he's my grandfather).

I've never been to Italy. The closest I've come is the Jersey Shore. In fact, I've never been to any other country, unless you count Canada. And I don't count Canada. It's much too driveable to be considered a foreign land.

One potential problem I've encountered while preparing for this journey is the fact that Italians, generally, speak Italian. Who knew?

I, for the record, don't speak Italian. So this could get interesting. The "How to Speak Italian" CD I've had sitting in my car for more than a month has generally been pushed aside by sports-talk radio and Paul Anka albums (that's a joke, of course ... I despise talk radio).

But before I embark upon this excursion, I must first take another dip into the Mailbag. And fear not. Though I will be out of the loop next week, the Mailbag will stay on its Monday schedule, as I will be leaving behind a batch of questions and answers to run in my absence.

Keep those questions rolling in, and I apologize for the inevitable delay in getting to them over the next couple of weeks. Away we go ...

If the Tribe enters Spring Training next year without the "veteran bullpen" help they are hoping to obtain (which seems like a definite possibility), what player on this roster would be the leading candidate to close out games for us next year?
-- Kris D., Canton, Ohio

Good question, Kris. It's one the Indians sincerely hope they don't have to answer. But given the thin free-agent class, I think it's definitely worth taking a stab at.

In my opinion, the Indians have a few guys in-house who could potentially close out games on a consistent basis.

The first one who comes to mind is Tom Mastny, who was unflappable in the closer's role in August. He struggled in September, and the Indians, when all was said and done, claimed he had some shoulder issues toward the end of the season. I'm not sure how much those problems affected Mastny's pitching, because he never said a word about the injury to reporters. What I can say with great certainty is that the league adjusted to the rookie's stuff.

Still, one can't ignore Mastny's stretch of five saves in his first five opportunities. He showed in that time that he has the right mind-set for the job.

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The next name to consider might come as a surprise, but his numbers speak for themselves. Matt Miller has a sidearm delivery, hits 90 mph about as often as my Mitsubishi does on Euclid Avenue and barely pitched this season because of elbow trouble.

But look at Miller's numbers: He's 2-for-4 in career save opportunities, he's given up exactly four homers in 105 big-league innings and his career ERA of 2.74 -- especially with the injuries factored in -- is nothing to scoff at.

Manager Eric Wedge said that Miller's obscure delivery probably would preclude him from getting a ninth-inning job. There's always a fear that left-handed hitters will pounce on right-handers who have sidearm deliveries. But lefties have hit just .234 (26-for-111) off Miller in his career.

If Fernando Cabrera, who's out of options, ever learns to consistently control his fastball, he'll shoot to the top of this list. For now the Indians would just be happy to see him earn a job in middle relief. And Jason Davis, also out of options, has shown that he can close at the Triple-A level, but prolonged big-league success has always eluded him.

What in the world happened to Guillermo Mota? He couldn't get my grandmother out when he played with the Tribe, but since the trade to the Mets, he's done a fabulous job. Was it the coaching staff? Was pitching in a pennant race something that made him excel? Is pitching in the National League that much different than the American League? Go figure.
-- Brian G., LaGrange, Ohio

Well, first off, Brian, let's not be so quick to dismiss the skills of your grandmother. As for Mota, he did a lot of work on his mechanics with the Indians' coaches behind the scenes. Perhaps it took a change of scenery and a new opportunity for those alterations to set in.

I think Mota benefited from two factors: Returning to the NL and reuniting with Paul Lo Duca, his catcher when he was dominant with the Dodgers.

Sorry to see John Farrell, the director of player development, go. Being that we are both alumni of the same high school and I actually graduated with his niece two years ago, his connection with my favorite team along with the great job he did there makes me wish him the best of luck as pitching coach of the Red Sox.
-- Timmy B., West Long Branch, N.J.

The Indians are going to miss Farrell's guiding hand down on the farm. I was more than a little surprised that he would leave the front office to return to the field. He had (and still has) "GM" written all over him. But the pull of the dugout is a powerful one to people involved in this sport.

I feel sad to see John Sanders let go from the broadcast team. He always seemed to be a class act. Good luck in the future, John.
-- George K., Newark, Ohio

Why would Matt Underwood leave us radio fans to listen to the ramblings of Mike Hegan? Matt and Tom Hamilton make every single game better, the way they interact and provide the best details. I hate this move, and I am going to miss Matty.
-- Eric G., Philadelphia

The shakeups to the Indians' radio and TV broadcast teams had several fans spouting off to the Mailbag. The writing seemed to be on the wall all season that Sanders wouldn't be brought back by Sports Time Ohio in 2007, though Underwood's move to the TV booth surprises me.

Because I'm in attendance for the vast majority of Indians' games, I don't really have a chance to get a feel for the TV broadcasts. I do, however, tune in to the radio calls on occasion, and I thought Hamilton and Underwood made for an entertaining team. They played off each other very well.

Hey, I heard rumors from a guy who actually works in a high position at Jacobs Field, and he said the Indians are interested in Alfonso Soriano of the Nationals. Do you actually think we can land a power bat and a base-stealer like him?
-- Mike M., Parma, Ohio

What high position would that be, Mike? Is he the guy who replaces burned-out bulbs in the light towers? You have to get pretty high up to do that.

Anyway, I can't think of very many teams that wouldn't love to have Soriano on their roster in some capacity. But I stand by my assertion that the Indians won't have the budget. He would be a productive bat in the Tribe's lineup, but, defensively, he wouldn't be the answer to the Tribe's troubles at second base.

I'm still trying to figure out why you would post a ridiculous question about A-Rod coming to Cleveland but not a legitimate question about acquiring Julio Lugo? Any fan with a clue at all knows the Indians won't be going after A-Rod. I would love to hear your reasons for or against signing Lugo as the new leadoff man/second baseman and pushing Grady Sizemore back to the No. 2 (or even 3) spot.
-- Patrick C., Vincennes, Ind.

Whenever I get a bunch of e-mails with the same question, I try to answer it at some point, Patrick. And I must have received at least a dozen e-mails about A-Rod last week alone.

As for Lugo, one could make an argument for him as a leadoff man. But I see a better argument for the Indians going after a middle-of-the-order bat to keep Sizemore at leadoff rather than moving him down. What Sizemore brings to the top of the order is rare, and I think the Indians should take advantage of it for all it's worth.

That's just my opinion, though. I know that a great number of fans would rather see Grady move down. The Indians, however, appear to agree with me for the time being.

Lugo isn't likely to re-sign with the Dodgers, but my guess is that he'd be more inclined to go to a team for which he could play shortstop, his primary position. He's a good hitter, though that didn't show in his brief time with L.A. the last two months of the year. The Indians might make him an option for their second base opening, but I don't see him batting leadoff.

I read your lead-in to last week's Mailbag with a grin, and I think I need to enlighten you. I used to have several Roger Maris cards when I was a kid that made a wonderful racket when clothes-pinned to the fender strut of my Schwinn back in the '60s. Now I look back and realize how much they could have been worth if I still had them. I have one word you should keep in mind when you consider pitching out what you call "junk": eBay!
-- Dwain, Dade City, Fla.

Point taken, Dwain. And the good folks at eBay will be happy to hear that several Mailbag readers suggested their site as a refuge for my refuse. I'll certainly remember it as an option before I bring out any trash bags.

Arrivederci, Tribe fans!

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.