What's wrong with Ubaldo: A Cleveland Indians preview

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What's wrong with Ubaldo: A Cleveland Indians preview

With the White Sox opening a three-game series tonight against Cleveland at U.S. Cellular Field, we reached out to Lewie Pollis of the fantastic Indians blog Wahoo's on First for his thoughts on the state of the first-place Tribe:

What, if anything, are you expecting out of Johnny Damon now that he's finally in the fold?
Not a whole lot. Damon still knows how to weasel his way on base and both his bat and his cleats will both be nice to have off the bench, but Damon almost certainlywon't be an improvementover incumbent left fielder Shelley Duncan on either side of the ball, and since neither player really struggles against same-handed pitchers they'd be an odd couple to platoon.
I'd be thrilled if Damon's role is that of a pinch hitter, fourth outfielder and backup DH. But he reportedly hasa gentleman's agreementwith Chris Antonetti to play regularly, so I'm afraid the Indians will be hamstrung into giving him more playing time that he should get. Hard to tell exactly what that means, though.
No team in baseball has taken a higher percentage of walks than Cleveland. Was that expected?

No, it wasn't. It does make some sense, though. Carlos Santana has always been a bona fide stoic at the plate. Shin-Soo Choo, Travis Hafner, Jack Hannahan, Casey Kotchman, Shelley Duncan, Lou Marson they're not all good hitters, but they all have solid plate discipline. That's never really been a concern for this team. So it's not as though this came out of left field.
Shin-Soo Choo has a .375 OBP but has the power numbers of, like, Juan Pierre. Are you concerned about him?
After 72 plate appearances, there isn't a whole lot that concerns me. That said, we saw Choo's power numbers fall last year too, which from an on-field standpoint was the biggest reason for his down year. He's still hitting line drives and demonstrating solid plate discipline, so some of his pop should come back. Anyway, his days of hitting 20 homers a year are probably over, but he's not this anemic. And even if he is, his speed and pitch selectiveness make him an above-average hitter.
What should we make of Travis Hafner? Will the power ever come back?
The MVP-caliber light-tower power that made him arguably the best hitter in the league? That's been gone for six years. But he's gotten his slugging percentage back to the mid-.400's four years in a row now (if we include 2012) and he's got enough pop and plate discipline left in the tank that he's still one of the Tribe's best hitters.
Hafner is tremendously frustrating for Indians fans. He's incredibly overpriced and the Indians have a ton of payroll tied up in him, and since he can't play the field anymore he's limited the Tribe's DH flexibility for almost a decade now. But through it all he's been a huge part of this Cleveland offense, and there's nobody else in the organization who could replace his production.
What's wrong with Ubaldo Jimenez and Justin Masterson?
It's a lot of things going wrong for Masterson. His velocity is down across the board. He's abandoning his bread-and-butter fastball and sinker in favor of more sliders and changeups. He's struggling to find the plate and doesn't seem eager to challenge hitters. And there are times as when he walked Brendan Ryan and beaned John Jaso with the bases loaded where it seems like he has absolutely no control over where the ball is going.
Meanwhile, Ubaldo just can't seem to strike hitters out. (Masterson has had the same problem, but his game is not based on punchouts to the same degree as Jimenez'.) His velocity is down quite a bit his fastball has dropped almost 4 mph since 2010 and he just isn't fooling hitters. He's gone from "effectively wild" to just plain wild.
I don't mean to overdramatize or read too much into small sample sizes, but it isn't just superficial to say that neither pitcher looks like his normal self.
Series prediction?
I'll say the Indians take two of three. I'm not confident about game one (Chris Sale...oy) but I like our chances in games two and three.

Carlos Rodon plays catch but timeline for return still uncertain

Carlos Rodon plays catch but timeline for return still uncertain

Carlos Rodon played catch in front of Don Cooper on Monday afternoon but only added to the intrigue surrounding his health when he declined to talk to the media.

On the 10-day disabled list with a biceps strain, the White Sox said Rodon continues to make progress in his rehab program. Cooper said the third-year pitcher felt and looked fine as he played catch in left field. But neither he nor manager Rick Renteria offered many more details on when Rodon may return or even when he could throw off a mound.

"He looked like he played catch good," Cooper said. "His throwing program is progressing. He felt fine. He threw the ball fine. That's kind of where we are at. He threw fine and move on to the next."

Rodon is in town for several days to be observed by the White Sox. On Friday, general manager Rick Hahn described the visit as a "routine follow-up visit." But other than making sure they're cautious with Rodon, the club hasn't been able to offer a specific timetable for their prized pitcher.

"I can't tell you in detail what the program is," Renteria said. "I know it involves throwing and making sure he's getting treatments and making sure it's taken care of, the issue he had with his biceps. We know it's getting better."

But the improvement hasn't made the situation any easier to deal with. When they started him on a delayed program this spring, the White Sox had Rodon pegged for 33 starts and 200 innings. As of now, there's no certainty when he'll make his first turn and the calendar is nearing May.

"He's frustrated," Cooper said. "He wants to get through this, through all of it. We are just there to try to make sure he's doing things right and there's progression.

"Well, I mean we've already taken a lot of caution. He's important to us now and in the future. We wouldn't rush with him or anybody."

Road Ahead: White Sox face another struggling offense in the Royals

Road Ahead: White Sox face another struggling offense in the Royals

The White Sox have scored the second fewest runs in the American League while the Royals have scored the fewest.

So fans of offense may not find the three-game series between the White Sox and Royals at Guaranteed Rate Field. The Sox have scored 55 runs in 17 games while the Royals have 46 runs in 18 games.

Dan Hayes and Siera Santos talk about what to expect from that series and give updates on Carlos Rodon's injury and timeline for his return and talk about when Yoan Moncada may get promoted from the minors.

Watch the video above to see those topics in the Honda Road Ahead.