The aspect of Wedge’s job that I’m most curious about is how he has been working with individual players to stay motivated and work through the losing streak. This aspect of managing isn’t revealed in the box score, but is still a big part of a manager’s job performance. I suppose I’m making a borderline argument for Wedge’s “intangibles” in dealing with the problem at-hand, but there’s a reason he has had success in developing and coaching this group of players over the years. Fans are quick to forget this team won 96 games last year; in-game decisions aside, how much are you willing to blame Wedge for the current trends?
Wedge and his core players have been through tough times before and I have yet to hear anything negative about the clubhouse atmosphere or Wedge’s relationship with the team. Sure 2006 was disappointing, but if you blame the coaching staff for that failure you have to also give them credit for the ALCS appearance the following year. The situation
While the 2008 squad is under pressure to win, they also have a substantial amount of experience in handling a pennant race compared to 2005. In addition to being more experienced, the pitching staff is at least as good as it was back then (Millwood won the ERA title and Wickman had 45 saves), while half the starting lineup consisted of such luminaries as Broussard, Belliard, Boone, and Crisp. Granted, Hafner was a beast back then, but considering we had a mediocre Nixon, Barfield, and a mediocre Hafner last year, you get the idea. Neither of the recent offenses has really been stacked with All-Stars, but have produced enough to hit 90+ wins.
Who’s to say this team won’t storm out of the gates after the All-Star Break and catch
Apparently, Travis Hafner has been experiencing pain in his right shoulder since Spring Training. I knew Hafner had to sit out a game early in April because of the injury, but it sounds like his shoulder has been bothering him all season. Hafner received his second cortisone shot of the season to relieve the inflammation in his shoulder joint. Head Trainer Lonnie Soloff diagnosed the issue as an “irritated joint,” but said there was no structural damage to the shoulder.
This may explain why Hafner has had trouble keeping his approach at the plate consistent this year. Hafner bats left-handed, so the right shoulder would be the one closest to the pitcher. As someone with no medical training, the first impression I get is that the injury may be causing Hafner to compensate for the limited motion or pain in other aspects of his swing. Hafner said he has been trying to correct flaws in his swing lately, but I have no idea how many of those “flaws” have been injury related. Obviously, Hafner refused to acknowledge the shoulder as the reason for his poor performance, but I think this may be one piece of the puzzle behind the disappearance of Pronk. Any injury serious enough to warrant a trip to the disabled list must be hindering a player’s performance somehow. Hafner will likely see regular off-days until his shoulder is back to 100%.
In an effort to find a lineup with some chemistry, Wedge has finally acknowledged the existence of Andy Marte. It took a catastrophic failure on offense, but it looks like Marte will finally see some playing time as a starter. Despite hitting just .216 with a .642 OPS, third baseman Casey Blake has held an iron grip on the starting job to this point. A recent Castrovince article cites the team-wide slump and Hafner’s injury as the reasons for Marte’s opportunity. I guess having a young, high-ceiling third baseman on the bench and an aging starter batting .216 isn’t reason enough, but I don’t call the shots. Marte has appeared in just 13 games this season, compared to Blake’s 46 appearances. It’s kind of sad, but Marte has received so little playing time since Opening Day that Michael Aubrey (called up on May 17) already has 8 appearances to Marte’s 13.
The ideal scenario would see Marte getting regular playing time for the next several weeks, as Blake is not getting any better here. Heck, with the way the entire lineup is going right now, I’d even be happy with Marte starting the majority of games next month. It certainly can’t hurt at this point. At best, Andy gets into a groove and provides an offensive spark akin to Ben Francisco. At worst,
The next day saw Jensen Lewis headed to
Finally, Jake Westbrook’s return to the rotation saw Jorge Julio DFA’d. With the offense needing all the help it can get, it appears Michael Aubrey’s spot is safe for now (personally, I think he could be trade bait later on). Julio was pretty much a non-factor this season, except when he was busy blowing leads. In his short stint with the Tribe he gave up 11 ER over 17.7 IP, so adiós Jorge.