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Fifth Starters and the AL Central

Well it looks like Sean O’Sullivan is the Royals fifth starter, at least for now. The Royals have opted to keep Vin Mazzaro in AAA following his disaster start where he walked seven in under three innings. I can’t say I disagree with the decision to not bring up Mazzaro, but I also can’t say that I agree with the decision to start O’Sullivan. People out there who are much smarter than me believe that O’Sullivan has a chance to be a good back end of the rotation starter. I’m not one of those people, but I suppose I’m willing to see what he can do. In his last few starts of 2010, he was much better than he had shown immediately following his acquisition from the Angels in exchange for Alberto Callaspo. I suppose there’s nothing to lose in this situation as we’re using 2011 to determine who is a fit for future rosters.

It’s funny, though, what a 6-3 start will do to your mindset. Just a week and a half ago, the prevailing thought around Kansas City was that this was going to be a tough season, but a valuable one in terms of sorting through all the players. Nine games later, the Royals look very good and are a rare Joakim Soria meltdown away from being 7-2. Most understand that the likelihood of this lasting is slim, but people want to ride out the hot streak, and I’m no different. Starting Sean O’Sullivan isn’t the greatest way in the world to ride a hot streak. I also find it sort of amusing that he will be starting on the jersey giveaway day. It seems like every year the Royals give a jersey away and every year they have their fifth (or sixth) starter pitching on that day. They’re obviously not going to set up a rotation to appease bigger crowds, but it does make me laugh a little bit.

Ultimately, I think Mazzaro will end up in the fifth starter role, and I think he’ll hold it down well. I see him being a nice trade chip in a couple of years when all the young starters are either up or close to up and you have a guy like Jason Adam knocking on the door of the rotation. For now, I suppose it doesn’t really make much of a difference who starts that game because neither one is going well and starting O’Sullivan doesn’t require a roster move. I heard somewhere (maybe on the radio) that someone asked if O’Sullivan was going to be on a pitch count because he’s been pitching out of the bullpen. He will be on a pitch count, I’m sure, but he’s only about three weeks removed from starting in spring training. It’s not like his routine has changed so much in that time that he’s unable to throw 100 pitches. Whether or not he gets to 100 pitches before he implodes is an entirely different story, and one that I hope does not happen.

Moving away from a fifth starter discussion that doesn’t mean much, I want to get into how the Indians are playing right now. They are 8-2 after winning last night against the Angels for their eighth straight win. In looking at their roster, the Indians have the potential to not be quite as bad as I initially thought. Maybe I’m letting ten games cloud my judgment here, but they’ve got some pop in their lineup and some intriguing arms in their rotation. Their lineup is filled with ifs, but if they do come through on their potential, they have a chance to be dangerous. The middle of their order with Choo, Santana and Hafner is already dangerous, and if LaPorta comes around and Asdrubal Cabrera keeps mashing like he has been in the early going, that’s a lineup you do not want to face.

Their rotation has some holes in it, but if Justin Masterson can finally harness all that stuff he has and become a top of the rotation starter, they’re in good shape. Fausto Carmona is a wild card, but he’s been a good pitcher in the past, and if he can stay in control, he’s a very good pitcher in his own right. I’m not convinced that Josh Tomlin, Carlos Carrasco and Mitch Talbot quite do enough to make a formidable back end of the rotation, but the Indians are a team who could finish .500 this season. Originally, I thought they might be as many as ten games worse than the Royals. I guess I overlooked the potential of their lineup.

I think it’s interesting what is going on in the American League Central right now. The Royals are clearly on the rise with their farm system. The Indians look like they might be putting together some good pieces to make a run in a couple of years. The Tigers have a weird combination of age and youth, so it’s tough to say what direction they are going in, though they have the resources to spend if need be. The White Sox are always interesting because of Kenny Williams, though they are getting older and could potentially be a train wreck in a couple of seasons. And then we have the Twins, who now have money and have superstars. I’d never count them out. The American League Central has the chance to go from being a laughingstock around baseball just a few years ago to being one of the very best divisions. It’s a similar transformation to what we saw from the National League West where the Giants, Padres and Rockies all rose up in recent seasons to make that division very good. Let’s just hope that the Royals can mimic the Giants and win us a World Series.

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