CLEVELAND -- It's considered a compliment to an organization when one team raids another's front office to fill a general manager vacancy. The Pirates, then, appear to be tipping their respective cap to the Indians. Neal Huntington, an assistant to GM Mark Shapiro, is on the verge of being named the new GM of the Pirates, according to published reports. The announcement could come as early as Monday.
Shapiro would not comment directly on the situation, though he did laud Huntington's work behind the scenes. "[Huntington is] one of our chief evaluators and one of our strongest voices on every level," Shapiro said. Huntington has been in professional baseball for 16 seasons and with the Tribe for 10. He scouts players at the Major and Minor League levels and gives recommendations for player evaluation, acquisition and retention. He was the director of player development from 1998 to 2001 before becoming one of Shapiro's assistants. That the Indians would lose one of their front-office members for such a role with another club is no surprise. The past month alone has seen Chris Antonetti's name come up as a rumored candidate for the jobs in Houston and Pittsburgh, and director of player personnel Steve Lubratich was a finalist for the Astros' job, which went to former Phillies GM Ed Wade. It's believed that Antonetti turned down the Pirates' opening. While stopping short of acknowledging Huntington is close to landing the job, Shapiro did say the Indians brace themselves for such losses. "It's part of success," he said. "We consider it an organizational achievement." Rotation situation: If the Indians clinch the division at home this weekend, don't expect them to drastically alter their rotation for the home stretch. Even though C.C. Sabathia and Fausto Carmona -- the locks to be the Tribe's Game 1 and Game 2 starters -- have both ventured into new territory with respect to innings pitched this season, neither is expected to be skipped in the rotation to preserve his arm. Carmona's situation is of particular interest, given this is his first full season as a big league starter. "We may discuss the possibility of holding his pitch count back," pitching coach Carl Willis said. "But you don't want to get in a situation where he comes into a potential playoff game with seven or eight days off. I personally think the best decision is to stay routine-oriented." As of today, Sabathia is on track to start the last game of the regular season on Sept. 30 in Kansas City. That, of course, would change, so that Sabathia would be on regular rest for the postseason. It's expected that Jake Westbrook would grab the Indians' third starting spot in the playoffs, though Willis did not confirm that. So, you're saying there's a chance? It's safe to say the Indians will win the American League Central Division. How safe? Well, according to Baseball Prospectus' mathematics, the Tribe had a 99.967 percent chance of winning the title, entering Friday's play. Yep, that's pretty safe. But not safe enough for manager Eric Wedge to start speculating on potential postseason opponents. "We're still focused on today," Wedge said. "If we get to a point where we finish this off, we'll start worrying about that. We've got people [in the front office] preparing and doing things for us. Right now, our focus is on Oakland. We're not getting ahead of ourselves." The Tribe's magic number was three, entering the weekend. Wedge has kept his focus on the here and now, but how does he feel about his players? "These guys have really had an edge to them, a focus," Wedge said. "They've played the way you like to see a ballclub play. It's a testament to them and their attitude and their approach to the game." Tribe tidbits: Left-hander Jeremy Sowers threw a simulated game before batting practice on Friday. He threw somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 pitches, Wedge said. "He looked good," Wedge said. "He threw the ball well." Sowers will start Game 2 of the Indians' Sept. 26 doubleheader in Seattle. Carmona is starting the first game. ... The Indians have reached the 90-win plateau for the 17th time in the franchise's 107-year history. It's the second time in three years the club has won 90 games. The Indians have the fifth-best record in the Majors from 2005-07. ... The Tribe has out-homered opponents 21-7 over the last 16 games. On deck: Depending on Friday's outcome, the Indians might have a chance of capturing the division crown on Saturday night. Right-hander Paul Byrd (15-6, 4.36 ERA) will start opposite Oakland right-hander Dan Haren (14-8, 3.12).
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.