Indians shake up staff

Maureen Mullen writes about the Indians' pitching shakeup:

    The problem -- an ineffective bullpen -- may be easy to identify. The solution, not quite as easy.
    "I think what's most troubling is that the inconsistency in the bullpen continues to be an issue," said Indians general manager Mark Shapiro, in the visitors' dugout before Wednesday's game at Fenway Park. "We've got to take a deep look at it and be thorough in how we examine it. We got to examine how we construct it, pick our players, we got to examine our performances, our coaching, everything. We've spent time doing that already, but we need to continue to do it and we need to do it more in depth."

    After watching his bullpen blow Tuesday's lead in Toronto, surrendering seven runs in the seventh inning on the way to 10-6 loss, Shapiro joined the team in Boston. Although it was a scheduled trip and not a reaction to his team's play of late, Shapiro announced a series of moves intended to shore up the shaky 'pen.

    Left-hander Aaron Laffey, Thursday's scheduled starter, was moved into the bullpen before Wednesday's game against the Red Sox, left-hander Rafael Perez was sent to Triple-A Columbus and left-hander Jeremy Sowers will be recalled from Columbus to start Thursday's game in Boston.


    In 13 games this season, spanning 10 2/3 innings, Perez has allowed 18 earned runs -- including 19 hits, one home run, nine walks (two intentional), five strikeouts, a hit batter and a balk -- for a 15.19 ERA.

    Shapiro said the goal for Perez in returning to the Minors would to give him "the chance to just catch his breath a little bit and get in some regular work down there."

Before checking, I didn't realize how well Perez pitched last year. Yes, his ERA jumped from 1.78 in 2007 to 3.54 in 2008. But he'd been a little bit over his head as a rookie in '07, and his strikeout rate and strikeout-to-walk ratio were still quite good last year. He entered this season, then, with as solid a résumé as you'd find in a 27-year-old lefty setup man.
Looking at Perez's Pitchf/x data, he seems to be throwing as hard as ever. My guess is that he's just going through a little run of bad luck, which perhaps isn't being helped by (now) a small crisis in confidence. If he's healthy, he'll dominate in Columbus and be back with the big club soon.

It's nice to see Sowers getting another shot. The sixth pick in the June draft five years ago, Sowers has little star potential. He just doesn't miss enough bats. But he's only 26 -- well, he turns 26 next week, and in 45 Triple-A starts he's 19-9 with a 2.53 ERA. Aaron Laffey's been good in the minors, too, and he's a few years younger than Sowers. Eventually there will be room for both of them in the rotation, as Anthony Reyes doesn't figure to last a whole lot longer in his current role.