Inbox: How will Tribe's ALDS 'pen shape up?

Beat reporter Jordan Bastian answers questions from fans

August 27th, 2018
Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Trevor Bauer watches from the dugout during the ninth inning of the team's baseball game against the Cincinnati Reds, Tuesday, July 10, 2018, in Cleveland. The Reds won 7-4. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)Tony Dejak/AP

What starters do you see actually being in the bullpen in the American League Division Series, assuming is healthy enough to pitch?
-- Tyler, via Twitter

This will be an interesting question deeper into September, when there is a better sense of Bauer's availability. Bauer (stress fracture in right fibula) would probably pitch with a walking boot on if the Indians let him, but the team is going to want to ensure he is back to full strength before leaning heavily on him again.
Until we have a clearer grasp of Bauer's status, it's hard to know if he will have enough time to get stretched out as a starter in time for the ALDS. Based on his progress to date, I do think he'll be available to pitch by then. The question is whether he will be allowed to work deep into a game.
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So I would say Bauer is the most likely of the starting pitchers to move to the bullpen for the ALDS. If he is deemed ready for a regular rotation role, then I'd expect Mike Clevinger to stick as the fourth starter and rookie Shane Bieber to become a bullpen option.
Two years ago, when the Indians' rotation was riddled with injuries, manager Terry Francona went with three starting pitchers and an eight-man bullpen in the ALDS. That, of course, requires one starter to return on short rest. Last year, when the staff was mostly healthy, Cleveland went with four starters and seven relievers. Two of those relievers were Clevinger and .
The bullpen locks would seem to be , Brad Hand, , and . In a seven-man format, Dan Otero could be carried as a ground-ball option to face righties, with one starting pitcher moved to the bullpen for length. A year ago, Otero was left off the roster due to the Tribe's decision to carry two starting pitchers in the ALDS bullpen.

Since launching his 37th home run on Aug. 17, has gone 4-for-33 over nine games. That includes a 1-for-16 showing to close out the recent road trip. For the Indians' sake, maybe Monday's off-day will give Ramirez a much-needed physical and mental break.
Over that nine-game stretch, Ramirez saw only 43.2-percent fastballs, per Statcast™. Pitchers are refusing to give him anything to hit at an increasing rate, and it's not hard to decipher why. Among hitters who have seen at least 1,500 pitches this season, Ramirez is tied for first in the Majors with a .731 slugging percentage vs. fastballs. That explains why he's only seen 52.8-percent heaters this year (fourth fewest in that same sample of hitters).
So the recent slump has been an extreme version of pitchers' season-long approach against the Tribe slugger, but this time Ramirez has struggled to capitalize on the few fastballs he has seen. During the nine-game skid, he has only swung and missed five times out of 148 pitches seen, but he's managed just a .154 slugging off fastballs. Ramirez has also watched 21.6 percent called strikes (up from his season rate of 18 percent).
Do the Indians still need to go after another outfielder? Or are they satisfied with who they have now?
-- Michael L.

Famous last words, but I get the feeling that the Indians plan on sticking with their current outfield. Francona likes that adds another switch-hitter to the lineup and -- some shaky defense aside -- the right fielder has hit .320/.386/.544 in 33 games since returning from Triple-A. In center, losing for the season was a tough blow, but rookie has filled in nicely, hitting .328/.371/.414 with a team-high seven steals in August.
The Indians could try to add a right-handed-hitting outfielder, and the name on the tip of Tribe fans' tongues has been . He could help in right, but Francona has leaned on for the at-bats vs. lefties in that spot. Guyer has a 129 wRC+, .359 on-base and .477 slugging against left-handers this year. McCutchen has a 121 wRC+, .358 OBP and .443 SLG off lefties this season.

The one player who likes like a safe bet for a September promotion is catching prospect (No. 24 on the Tribe's Top 30 list, per MLB Pipeline). Teams typically carry three catchers down the stretch, and the 25-year-old Haase is the next man up behind and . In 115 games at Triple-A this year, Haase has 18 homers, 22 doubles and a .711 OPS. He's caught runners at a 50 percent clip (32-for-64) and Major League pitchers who have thrown to Haase have raved about his catching ability.
Who is the most likely Tribe Minor League pitcher, if any, to be pitching in the playoffs this year?
-- Jack G., Madison, Conn.

Since Bieber already ascended to the Majors this season, there really isn't another one who sticks out. It's easy to dream on 21-year-old righty Nick Sandlin, though. When the Indians took Sandlin (No. 18 on Cleveland's Top 30 list) out of the University of Southern Mississippi in the second round of this summer's Draft, people within the organization said the reliever could rise fast. They weren't kidding. Sandlin has already climbed from Rookie-level ball to Double-A, posting a 1.27 ERA with 30 strikeouts against two walks in 21 1/3 innings. I don't see him reaching the Majors this year, but seeing him in big league camp next spring suddenly doesn't seem farfetched.