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Sizemore heads to DL; Indians still look OK

5/16/2011

The Indians are doing the right thing by being cautious with Grady Sizemore, placing him on the 15-day DL even though an MRI revealed his sore knee is nothing more than a bruised kneecap.

Reading through some of the comments on the news story, it's clear that most fans still don't believe in the Indians, even though they ranked second in this week's Power Rankings. And the timing for Sizemore's DL stint isn't great: Cleveland begins a stretch where it plays at Kansas City, at the White Sox, Cincinnati, Boston, at Tampa Bay, at Toronto, Texas, Minnesota, at the Yankees and at Detroit over its next 30 games. Let's hope Sizemore will be back after two weeks of rest.

The team recalled Travis Buck, who will likely platoon in left field with Shelley Duncan, with Michael Brantley moving over to center. Buck was tearing up Triple-A with a .333/.432/.583 line, but he hasn't hit in the majors since performing well with the A's as a rookie in 2007. Still, there are worse guys to have ready at your disposal.

Like others, I'm a little skeptical about the Indians. They're fourth in the AL in run prevention and their starters have a 3.56 ERA despite ranking 12th in the AL in strikeouts. Can they keep up that run prevention despite the relatively low strikeout rate? That's the big question. That said, here are five reasons I still like the Indians.

1. Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Santana will hit much better. Choo's OPS is .655 and Santana's .727. I still believe both will be up around .850 by season's end.

2. Michael Brantley is a good player. Mickey's son is hitting .298 with a .372 on-base percentage. He's doing what he did in the minors -- he puts the ball in play and draws just enough walks to produce a good OBP.

3. The pitching is better than people think. The staff may not rank high in strikeout rate, but it also doesn't walk many batters. Cleveland's 2.10 strikeout-to-walk ratio is fifth in the AL.

4. Justin Masterson is for real. He's allowed three runs or fewer in seven of his eight starts, his strikeout rate is creeping up while maintaining his ground ball rate and he's given up just one home run. He still has a huge left/right split (.333 versus lefties, .148 versus righties) that prevents him from being a true ace, but he's developing into a solid No. 2.

5. It's the AL Central! Eighty-five wins may still be enough to win this division.

(Read more about the Indians and a look back at Len Barker's perfect game at our SweetSpot affiliate, It's Pronounced "Lajaway.")