Hooley: Indians starters...they throw THE MEAT

I'm a little confused by what I'm seeing and hearing from the Cleveland Indians these days.

I was listening to Manager Terry Francona before Wednesday's noon game against Tampa Bay on 1057 The Zone and he told Tribe broadcaster Tom Hamilton not to panic about the Indians' slow start. Tito's reason? Because, he said, all teams eventually reach their proper level in the standings.

Tito certainly hinted that his team is going to finish first in the AL Central no matter what. He suggested that last year they got there via a 14-game winning streak. This year, he said, it might happen differently, but he left the impression that it will, indeed, happen.

Then Francona's pre-game interview ended and I heard the opening credits for the broadcast, in which a guy who sure sounded like Terry Francona said, "Every year is a different year."

Based on what I'm seeing so far, I think I'm going to believe the Francona who said every year is a different year. Because it doesn't look to me like the Indians are guaranteed anything based upon horrible starting pitching through the season's first 39 games.

Starting pitching was supposed to be one of the Indians strengths. But then, everything was supposed to be a strength. The bullpen, the every day lineup and the starting pitching. But so far, only the bullpen has delivered on expectations.

I'm more confident Edwin Encarnacion and some of the Tribe hitters who've been struggling will eventually figure it out when the weather gets warm and stays warm than I am that the Tribe's starters will just magically get better the deeper we get into the year.

Right now, the Indians have the worst ERA of any team in the American League. They're allowing over five earned runs per-game.

Here's how it breaks down by regular member of the rotation:

Pitcher                   Record           ERA

Carrasco                4-2                  2.60

Salazar                   2-4                  5.60

Kluber                    3-2                  5.06

Bauer                     3-4                  6.92

Tomlin                    2-5                  6.86

Those are some ugly numbers all the way around. If not for a bullpen that's been even more stifling than last post-season, the Indians would be well below .500 instead of hovering just above it as they head to Houston for a three-game weekend series.

The Reds will get the chance to feast on that Indians starting rotation next week, with two games in Cincinnati on Monday and Tuesday and two more between the clubs on Wednesday and Thursday at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

If the Tribe doesn't get things turned around, Arby's is going to file for trademark infringement, because nobody "has the meat" more than the guys Francona is throwing out there to start every night.

Last year, the Indians ranked second in the American League in starting pitching ERA and gave up 133 home runs all season.

This year?

A little different.

With Kluber on the disabled list with a bad back, the Tribe threw Mike Clevinger, Bauer, Carrasco, Salazar and Tomlin out there the last time through the rotation. They allowed 8 home runs and collective ERA of 9.28.

So far this year, the starters are on pace to allow 149 home runs.

If that happens, I'm not sure the Indians bats can get hot enough to offset the damage.

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