The Indians went almost a week (The 17th to the 23rd) without making a move. During that time, the bullpen started to right itself, with the only ongoing problem seeming to be the last two spots in the rotation (then held by Anthony Reyes and David Huff). Unfortunately, after last Saturday's game in Cincinnati, more major changes to the pitching staff were in order.
Placed RHP Anthony Reyes on the 15-Day Disabled List (right elbow)
Reyes started last Saturday's game, but had to leave after the third inning because of pain in his throwing elbow. Reyes had struggled to throw strikes in his brief time on the mound that day, and it was because of injury. After having the elbow looked at, the team physician recommended ulnar nerve transposition, which would move the ulnar nerve in his right elbow from its present location in the back of the elbow joint to the front so that it would no longer rub against the bone. If he had the surgery, he would be out of action anywhere from four to six months, which meant he wouldn't be available at all this season.
So who would fill this rotation spot? The easy answer, for at least a couple innings, was Aaron Laffey, who had been moved from the rotation to the bullpen not because he had been pitching poorly but because the Indians desparately needed some help in relief.
Placed LHP Aaron Laffey on the 15-Day Disabled List (right oblique)
Laffey injured himself later in that game in Cincinnati after throwing a pitch. There's no surgery needed, but the recovery period is 4-6 weeks, and meant that the Indians would have four starting pitchers on the DL for at least one month. Jake Westbrook, who has been recovering from Tommy John Surgery, will probably be the first starter of the quartet (Reyes, Laffey, Westbrook, and Scott Lewis) to return to the rotation, and that probably won't be until the end of this month. So the eight starters the Indians had at the beginning of the season (with Westbrook being the ninth) was whittled down to five.
Recalled LHP Jeremy Sowers from Columbus (AAA)
Sowers was recalled right away to give the Indians some long relief if one of their other starters would have a short start. Sowers had started two games earlier in the season, but didn't last past the fifth in either of them. He had pitched very well in AAA in between major-league stints, but hasn't had major-league success since his debut in 2006. In 290.2 major-league innings, he's struck out 4.0 batters per nine innings, and even in his good season wasn't missing many bats.
Recalled LHP Rich Rundles from Columbus (AAA)
Rundles had been up briefly with the team earlier in the season, but hadn't got in a game. If he's still with the team after all the dust clears, he might work his way into a LOOGY role as the second left-hander in the bullpen. But this time he was recalled with the same purpose as the previous time: as an emergency reserve.
Optioned OF Matt LaPorta to Columbus (AAA)
Recalled OF Trevor Crowe from Columbus (AAA)
LaPorta wasn't getting to play regularly, even with Travis Hafner on the Disabled List, because Grady Sizemore couldn't play the field because of a sore throwing elbow. Also, in a roundabout way, Luis Valbuena's success was reducing his playing time, since more at-bats for Valbuena meant more games at third base for Jhonny Peralta, which meant more games in the outfield for Mark DeRosa. And Matt hadn't helped his cause by struggling in his sporadic major-league at-bats. So, he was sent back to AAA to "play every day."
With Sizemore not going to the DL, or days away from heading there, the Indians needed someone who could play a competant center field. Ben Francisco can certainly fill in there from time to time, but his range isn't good enough to play at the position for any tangible length of time. That should mean Crowe will get regular playing time until Grady's elbow is sound enough to make the throw from the outfield. Trevor, in his time with the Clippers, hit an anemic .230/.321/.297, so the Indians lineup will suffer with him in it.
Recalled LHP Zach Jackson from Columbus (AAA)
Optioned LHP Rich Rundles to Columbus (AAA)
The Indians, because they had to use Sowers in long relief the night before, recalled Jackson to start this past Tuesday's game agains the Rays. I don't think the arrangement was intended to be permanent, but Jackson confirmed his temporary status by giving up five runs in the first inning. The Indians ended up winning the game, but no thanks to Jackson, who left after four innings.
Transferred RHP Anthony Reyes from the 15-Day Disabled List to the 60-Day Disabled List (right elbow)
Optioned LHP Zach Jackson to Columbus (AAA)
Purchased the Contract of Tomo Ohka and Recalled him from Columbus (AAA)
These machinations were to yet again add another stopgap arm to the bullpen. Ohka doesn't have the stuff to start anymore, but I suppose he can serve as a longman for now. With "now" meaning the next week.
Designated OF David Dellucci for Assignment
Recalled LHP Rafael Perez from Columbus (AAA)
Dellucci had begun the season on the Disabled List, and never worked his way into regular playing time even though the DH was available. He first lost at-bats to Matt LaPorta, then to Grady Sizemore and Mark DeRosa, who was getting more starts in left field. At this stage in his career, he's a liability even in left, and hasn't provided enough run production to justify being used as a DH. A team desperate for outfield help (Atlanta?) or for a pinch-hitter should have an interest in him.
Rafael Perez spent his time in Columbus productively, for it looks like he's solved whatever mechanical problems that plagued him the first couple weeks of the season. His return should further strengthen a bullpen already showing progress in the past couple weeks.