Notes from the Wigwam: Just win, baby!

Isn’t it amazing how things can change in a matter of weeks?

Just one week ago, the Indians were looking like a team that was inconsistent, deflated, and quite frankly — defeated.

What about now?

The Indians went 5-1 during this past week, and the team’s record now sits at 14-14. They’re currently in third place in the American League Central and they trail the Detroit Tigers by four games.

Not too shabby for a team that seemed completely lifeless just over a week ago. So, with that being said, let’s look back at the week that was…

Weekly results

April 29 at Kansas City, W 9-0 (WP: Jimenez, LP: Davis)

April 30 vs. Philadelphia, W 14-2 (WP: McAllister, LP: Halladay)

May 1 vs. Philadelphia, W 6-0  (WP: Bauer, LP: Lee)

May 2 vs. Minnesota, W 7-6 (WP: Perez, LP: Fien)

May 3 vs. Minnesota, W 7-3 (WP: Kazmir, Correia)

May 4 vs. Minnescota, L 4-2 (WP: Pelfrey, LP: Kluber)

Player of the Week

Ryan Raburn — Utility

5 G, 5 R, 13-for-22, 4 HR, 9 RBI, 3 K.

Could this honor really be bestowed upon anyone else? It’s hard to put into words just how dominant Raburn was over this past week. Of course, he was most impressive over the course of three games where the right-handed hitting utility man went 11-for-13 with four home runs. Raburn cooled down a bit and went 0-for-5 in Friday’s contest, but he was right back at it on Sunday and collected two more hits. It’s obvious that Raburn is not going to stay this hot during the course of a full 162-game season. However, he is a very valuable piece, especially as a bench player. Think of the players that the Indians trotted out in Raburn’s role during the past couple of seasons.Aaron CunninghamJose Lopez? Raburn represents a massive upgrade over players like that, and he’s definitely a valuable piece to this year’s team.

Minor League Player of the Week

Danny Salazar — Starting pitcher, Akron Aeros

1 GS, 6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 12 K.

It’s hard to give this honor to a player who only appeared in one game, but Salazar’s dominant start made him more than deserving. The right-hander was electric on Thursday as he needed just 82 pitches (53 strikes) to cruise through six scoreless innings. He was never threatened, and he also recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts in the contest. On the year, Salazar is now striking out 13.5 batters per nine innings. To be blunt, that is absurd. Many people still feel as if Salazar is ultimately destined for the bullpen, and that may end up being the case. However, at this point, the Indians need to exhaust every opportunity to develop Salazar as a starter. At just six feet, Salazar may not be the biggest guy on the mound, but he has plenty of upside. If he keeps this up, it would appear as if he could have a legitimate chance to get promoted to Triple-A Columbus midway through the season.

A rough week

Nick Swisher — First baseman

3 G, 2-for-13, 1 R, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 K.

It really is not Swisher’s own fault that he finds himself in this position in this week’s edition of Notes from the Wigwam. Swisher missed a three games this past week with a sore shoulder. He returned to the lineup on Saturday, and did at least manage to sock a home run, which was a positive. While Swisher did have a tough week, it was still refreshing to see his response to the injury. It’s probably never fun for a player to sit on the bench and then have to watch his team score tons of runs, but that was the situation that Swisher faced this past week. However, if you heard any of Swisher’s interviews, it was just so evident that this was a guy who really, really wanted to be a part of the club’s offensive surge. He seemed genuinely happy for the team, and you could just tell how he wished he was out there with them. I’ve said on many occasions that Swisher is the type of guy that teams love to have in their clubhouse, and this past week just serves as more evidence of that point.  Swisher has still yet to really settle in at the plate, but he is at least healthy now, and let’s hope he enters this week intent on making up for lost time.

News & notes

— So much for the struggling Jason Kipnis, right? Kipnis was one of many Indians to have an outstanding week at the plate, and it does at least appear as if the left-handed hitter’s slump could indeed now be a thing of the past. Kipnis went 8-for-26 this past week with two home runs, seven RBI and two stolen bases. I can be counted among the skeptical as I was just not sure if Kipnis was indeed ready for the Show full time. I still am not completely on the Kipnis bandwagon but this past week was definitely a step in the right direction. His average now sits at .218, which is a colossal improvement from the .180 he was hitting heading into last Monday’s game. However, one of the areas where it would be nice to see some more progress is plate discipline. Kipnis has struck out 24 times and walked only eight times this season. He showed last season that he can be a very disciplined hitter, but it’s been a struggle for him in the early going of 2013.

— What do we make of Lonnie Chisenhall? Chisenhall played in only four games this past week and went 3-for-14. His average now sits at .231, and he’s also walked just two times while striking out 19 times. The IBI’s Michael Hattery made a great point in his new Saturday column, Trend Spotting, that Chisenhall could be due for a rebound. However, the problem is that we keep saying that Chisenhall will come around, but we have nothing to show for it. It appears as if the Indians top brass may share some of these concerns as they played Mark Reynolds and Mike Aviles at third base each once during the past week. This is only a temporary fix, but it may be something that is worth exploring more. Aviles is currently hitting .280, and the right-handed hitter went 4-for-10 this week. He’s not a superstar, but he’s proven in the past that he can be an everyday player. Third base is not his best position, but if he is passable there, then the Indians should look into giving him more starts at the hot corner.

— Trevor Bauer made his second start with the Indians this past week. There were some things to like about it, but it was evident that the right-hander still has to work on ironing out some of the kinks. Bauer pitched five innings and allowed just one hit while striking out five. The problem is that he also walked six batters, which is far too high for anyone’s liking. Bauer clearly needs some work in this area, but is it even worth it for him to work on that problem at the Triple-A level? Will it even make a difference? Fellow IBI editor Jim Pete made an excellent point on last night’s edition of CSI: Cleveland Sports Insiders. Pete suggested that any of the things that Bauer needs to work on could be fixed at the Major League level instead of Triple-A. There does seem to be evidence that also supports that point as Bauer only walked 3.8 batters per nine innings last season while playing for Triple-A Reno, and he’s only walking 3.0 batters per nine innings now with the Columbus Clippers. Perhaps the walks at the Major League level can just be attributed to nerves. If that’s the case, the only way we can overcome our fear is by facing it. In other words, it may be time to bring Bauer up for good. According to the IBI’s Tony Lastoria, Bauer reportedly could be joining the rotation again next Monday. If he performs well, will it be his spot to keep for good? That may be one of the most interesting storylines to follow over these next few weeks.

— Corey Kluber seems to be turning some heads these days. The right-hander has done a solid job in his two starts so far this season as he’s pitched a total of 12 2/3 innings in the starts and allowed just five earned runs. I’m not necessarily convinced that he is indeed a long-term answer in the rotation, but you cannot fault him for how he’s performed thus far. So far, Kluber has made significant progress in just about every key area. His hits and walks are down when compared to last season, and his strikeout numbers are up. Kluber likely has to continue to perform like this if he is going to maintain a spot in the team’s rotation. It’s hard to believe that the Indians are as committed to Kluber as they are to Carlos Carrasco or Bauer, so how long will it be until the team decides to switch things up? At this point, it would be impossible to demote Kluber, but you have to wonder how long he can continue to perform this way, especially when he knows that he will probably always be pitching with his job on the line.

— Speaking of Carlos Carrasco, the right-hander has been dominant at Triple-A as he has a 1.90 ERA in five appearances and in 23 2/3 innings of work. It appears as if Carrasco is completely fine even after he took a line drive off his elbow in a game on April 25. Carrasco had an outstanding start on Sunday as he pitched six innings and allowed four hits and one run while striking out seven. It’s evident that Carrasco has nothing left to gain from pitching at the Triple-A level, but who does he replace in Cleveland? And should the Indians even trust Carrasco at this point? Unless a starting pitcher is hurt, it seems unlikely that Carrasco will indeed join the Indians anytime soon. It sounds hard to believe, but every pitcher has pitched well in at least his last start, so there does not seem to be much room for Carrasco at this point. However, the Indians are going to have to come to the realization that Carrasco has done everything he can possibly do at Triple-A. Like Bauer, Carrasco is supposed to be one of the cornerstones of this rotation for years to come. Headhunter or not, there is going to have to come a point where the Indians decide to give Carrasco another look.

Quick hits

— One piece of good news for the Indians is that it appears as if reliever Vinnie Pestano will avoid a trip to the disabled list. The right-hander has not pitched since April 28 because of soreness in his right elbow. He had a good bullpen session on Sunday, and he should be available starting tonight for the series against the Oakland Athletics.

— Michael Bourn, who has been out since April 15 after he was spiked running to first base, will begin a rehab assignment tonight at Columbus. If all goes well, Bourn could be back with the Indians by Thursday or Friday.


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