Should Nick Hagadone Return To Starting Role?


Apr 21, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; Cleveland Indians relief pitcher Nick Hagadone (50) pitches against the Houston Astros in the sixth inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

Should Nick Hagadone Move to Rotation?

The union between Nick Hagadone and the Cleveland Indians has been tenuous at times. None more so than after he was removed from a game against the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012. After being removed from the July 6th game against in which he allowed two runs in two-thirds of an inning he subsequently broke his pitching hand punching a wall.

Indians General Manager Chris Antonetti said Hagadone had expressed immediate remorse and that the incident occurred after the bad outing, not when the club informed him of his demotion to Columbus.  Due to the fit of anger the Indians sent him to the minor league disqualified list costing him salary and service time.

On Hagadone’s behalf the Major League Players Union filed a grievance against the Indians. Later that summer at the All-Star game former Union Chief Micheal Weiner made the argument that teams want players to play with intensity and passion. When the intensity and passion overflows it should be treated as a workplace injury.

David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

The grievance was still being heard a year later but according to Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, ” The union won a partial victory last year when the Indians were ordered to pay Hagadone the salary he missed, but they are still arguing over service time.” He also said that both the Indians and Hagadone were removed from the process at that time.

The outcome of the second half of the grievance has not been made public but has a direct impact on Nick Hagadone’s future with the Tribe. If he wins this part of the grievance he would accrue service time at the major league level which is good for him but the Indians would gain an option year as he would have spent less than 20-days in the minors in 2012.

If he is out of options the Indians should most certainly bring him to spring training and allow him to continue to battle for a bullpen spot. If he does have an option left the Indians should allow him to resume his career as a starting pitcher.

There are several reasons for taking this path. The first would be to try to utilize the year to see if he could harness all of his pitches and become a viable future starting option for the Indians. The second is that if he isn’t able to transfer to the Triple-A rotation he can easily slide back into a relief role and be available in the second half if needed. Finally, if he is able to even show a modicum of success as a starter he is a much better trade chip then as an out of options reliever.

Both lefty relievers Mark Rzepczynski and Josh Outman are expected to be on the opening day roster and the Tribe will also have lefties Scott Barnes and Colt Hynes providing depth at Triple-A.

A name to keep an eye is 2013 4th round draft pick left-handed reliever Kyle Crockett from the University of Virginia. He turned 22 this past December and ascended all the way up to the Indians Double-A affiliate Akron Aeros where he appeared in nine games spanning 10.1 scoreless innings of work allowing just seven hits striking out nine and walking two.  

Statistically, there is not much evidence to suggest that Nick Hagadone would thrive in the role of a starting pitcher. He has trouble harnessing the three pitches he throws now – two seam fastball, four seam fastball, and slider.  In his major league career he has a strikeout rate of 8.6 K/9 and a walk rate of 5.6 BB/9.

His last year as a starting pitcher came in 2009 where he made 17 starts between the High-A Kinston Indians and the Double-A Akron Aeros where he posted a 3-5 record with a 3.57 ERA (34 earned runs/85.2 innings pitched). He had a strikeout rate of 9.4 K/9 and 6.6 BB/9.

The 2011 season was spent exclusively in the bullpen and he finally seemed to have harnessed his control problems appearing in 46 games in Double-A Akron and with the Triple-A Columbus Clippers posting a 6-4 record with a 2.79 ERA (22 earned runs in 71 innings of work). He had a strike out rate of 9.8 K/9 and a walk rate of only 2.8 BB/9.

Although the Games Started column is bland for the 2011 season, Nick Hagadone worked multiple innings through most of his early appearances and did not abandon pitching from the wind up until after the all-star break. The 2011 season provides a basis for hope that Hagadone could transfer back to a starting role.

Chances are that Nick Hagadone will come to spring training and attempt to harness his command in a relief role but some outside the box thinking may reap big dividends for the Indians.  The only unknown at this time is whether he has an option remaining or not but it appears that the Indians have the necessary left-handed relief depth to take a short-term gamble on allowing Hagadone to give starting at least one more attempt.