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View from the other side: Indians questions for Jason Lukehart of Let's Go Tribe

The Blue Jays start a three game series with the Indians tonight, in Cleveland.

Progressive Field
Progressive Field
Jason Miller

The Indians are 46-43 good for second in the AL Central, trailing the Tigers by 3.5 games and 3.5 games back in the Wild Card race.

The Indians are Just 3.5 games back of the Tigers...what do you think of your chances to catch them? How making on of the wild card spots?

The Indians spent big chunks of 2011 and 2012 in 1st place before coming apart, but I think this year's team is better than those two editions. That said, Detroit has a lot more talent than the Tribe, so I don't hold out a ton of hope for the division title. The Tigers would probably need to suffer a couple of key injuries. All season, I've seen one of the wildcard spots as a more likely gateway to the playoffs. The AL East teams will either separate, or the second wildcard will go to a team with 86 or 87 wins, which seems like a possibility for the Indians, if they somehow get their pitching straightened out.

Which Indian is the biggest surprise? Biggest disappointment?

In terms of being pleasantly surprised, Ryan Raburn is a player I expected nothing from when he signed with the team last winter, but he's got an OPS over .900 while playing in about half the team's games. Jason Kipnis, I expected to be good, but he's been far better than I hoped, the best-hitting 2B in the American League, as well as the best base stealer on a team with much faster guys.

Speaking of much faster guys, the biggest disappointment for me has been Michael Bourn. I was really excited when the Indians signed him, because he'd been such a dynamic player in recent years, one of the best fielders and base runners in baseball. His defense hasn't been what it was, whether you're going by advanced metrics or the 'eye test,' and his stolen base attempts and success rate are both way down too.

How are our old friends Yan Gomes and Mike Aviles doing in Cleveland?

Gomes has been far better than anyone expected. He's starting 2 or 3 games a week and his OPS+ is 123, right between All-Stars Joe Mauer and Jason Castro, among catchers. Aviles hasn't been anywhere near that good, but he's been solid enough, as backups go, and while filling in for an injured Asdrubal Cabrera at SS for a few weeks. With the way Esmil Rogers has pitched for the Jays of late, this seems like a trade that worked out well for both sides.

How comfortable are you with Chris Perez as closer?

Short answer: Not very.

...But as an Indians fan, I'm accustomed to that sensation. Frankly, it's the rest of the bullpen that's been frustrating to me. Vinnie Pestano, the would-be "closer of the future" has really struggled this season, after being one of the best relievers in baseball over the last couple years. Other mid-inning guys have had a hard time as well. This is especially problematic because other than Justin Masterson, the starting pitchers aren't making it deep into many games.

Are there any players in the farm system you expect to help out in the second half of the season?

Trevor Bauer is someone I was once expecting to get a mid-season boost from, but he's been called up for spot starts four times already, without much success, and his Triple-A numbers haven't been that good either. Starting pitcher Danny Salazar will get a chance at some point, maybe as soon as Thursday, because the rotation is a mess and he's been very good on the farm, but most of the Indians' best prospects are a couple years away yet, so I don't expect much help on that front.

You have a few pitchers on the DL? What's the status of Zach McAllister, Josh Tomlin and Brett Myers?

Losing McAllister was a big blow, because he'd become the team's #2 starter. The hope is that he returns by August 1st. Josh Tomlin is said to be almost ready to begin rehabbing somewhere in the minors, and possibly in position to join the Indians rotation sometime in August. I don't have a lot of confidence in his ability to pitch well this season though. Myers could be back by the end of July, but the team has said he'll only be used as a reliever, if and when he returns.

Thanks Jason