CLEVELAND -- Ruben Niebla has had his work cut out for him since taking over as the interim pitching coach three weeks ago. He inherited a staff riddled with problems and has been tackling those issues daily behind the scenes.
One ongoing project has been trying to solve Justin Masterson's consistency issues.
"We've talked about some checkpoints for him," Niebla said. "We're making sure he's keeping his hip behind his shoulder as he starts to the plate and keeping that lead arm strong. It's something that he needs to make sure he stays on top of."
Masterson has gone 10-12 with a 4.91 ERA across 28 starts, a disappointing ledger after the sinkerballer went 12-10 with a 3.21 ERA in a breakout showing a year ago. This season he has turned in 16 quality starts, but he has also had seven outings in which he allowed seven or more runs.
Those seven outings are the most in one season by an Indians pitcher since 1936, when Mel Harder also had seven. Masterson has also tied a club record (also established by Harder in '36) with five starts in which he has yielded at least eight runs.
"I'm as perplexed as anybody," Masterson said.
Niebla said that it all comes down to consistent mechanics.
"I think that Justin is aware of what's happening with his delivery," Niebla said. "It kind of breaks down a little bit. It's something that he works hard at, making sure he's balanced over the rubber and staying back.
"I think as the game kind of progressed [on Thursday, when he lost to Oakland], he started leaking in with his front side a little bit and started getting under some pitches."