Francona confident in Shaw despite shaky outings

Reliever 'just needs to command' to push through rough patch

April 17th, 2016
Bryan Shaw has given up nine runs in four relief outings, but Terry Francona is keeping him in the bullpen. (Getty)

CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona does not plan on disrupting his bullpen by potentially overreacting to a small sample size.

While there is legitimate concern over the command issues that setup man Bryan Shaw has displayed in the early going this season, Francona trusts that the right-hander will get things together after a couple of rough appearances. Shaw's velocity is up from a year ago, and the manager believes command and results will soon fall in line with the reliever's past production.

"He's throwing the ball good. He just needs to command," Francona said. "Sometimes guys have a couple bad outings early and their ERAs, they're going to have to fight it for a while. But if you start changing roles because of it, I think you're doing your team a disservice."

Shaw took the mound in the eighth inning on Saturday with the Indians holding a 7-1 lead, and he allowed four runs on three hits, including a pair of home runs, in two-thirds of an inning. Cleveland held on for a 7-5 win over the Mets. On April 9 in Chicago, Shaw surrendered a career-high five runs in two-thirds of an inning against the White Sox. In that outing, his woes in the seventh inning turned a 3-2 Cleveland lead into a 7-3 loss.

Through four relief outings, Shaw has a 24.30 ERA and has given up nine runs on eight hits in 3 1/3 innings.

Francona was quick to note that Shaw has had early-season problems in the past. A year ago, the righty posted a 5.06 ERA with a 1.080 opponents' OPS in his first 10 appearances (5 1/3 innings) before settling in and fashioning a solid season. In April last year, Shaw was also struggling with his velocity, averaging 92.5 mph with his cutter and 81.4 mph on his slider.

So far this month, Shaw has averaged 93.4 mph with his cutter -- higher than his average for any month in 2015. His 83.6-mph average on his slider is also a 2-mph jump on his overall rate with the same pitch last season. That is one reason Francona is maintaining his faith in the setup man.

"I think his velocity is probably three or four ticks up from where it was this time last year," Francona said. "So we just have to get him to command and work ahead. That's probably the biggest thing."

Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway agreed.

"It just looks like he's searching a little bit for the strike zone," Callaway said after Saturday's game. "Any time you're searching for the strike zone, hoping you throw a strike, bad things are going to happen. He needs to get aggressive, throw the ball over the plate with conviction and live with the results."