By Dan Walk
1 I was completely ready to give up on the Cleveland Indians after they lost three of four at home to the Detroit Tigers last weekend. Then, the Tribe turned things around and won four straight heading into the All-Star break. The Indians are only 1 1/2 games out of first in the AL Central, yet they’re looking up at the American League’s most complete team. Assuming the Tigers get hot in the second half — like last year — Cleveland needs to focus on a wild card spot.
2 The Indians are among five teams within three games of each other who are competing for two AL wild card spots. It’s a crowded field that includes three AL East teams and Texas. Cleveland’s 51-44 record at the break — it’s best since finishing a win away from the World Series in 2007 — means the Indians are buyers, not sellers.
3 Considering the Indians are fifth in baseball in runs scored and tied for 26th in earned run average, it’s apparent that pitching is the team’s weakness. Justin Masterson and Corey Kluber are Cleveland’s only healthy and reliable starters, so adding a veteran starter before the trade deadline is paramount. The Tribe are looking for a big trade — possibly Matt Garza or Yovani Gallardo — in order to boost their contender status. The Indians can’t afford to make the same mistake they did two years ago when they traded for Ubaldo Jimenez.
4 A boost to the Indians rotation for at least a month or two could be Danny Salazar, who had a no-hitter through five innings and was hitting 99 mph while winning his Major League debut last week. I expect him to return to the rotation again — he was sent back to Triple-A after the game and will be on an innings limit — at some point this year, especially if Zach McAllister remains on the shelf. Every time a young player with electric stuff does well on another team, my mom, an Indians fan, says, “Why can’t we get that guy?” This time, Cleveland might have “that guy.”
5 With a great pitching staff from the rotation to the bullpen, it’s clear the Pirates need offense. They badly need an experienced bat or two — all they have right now in that category is Russell Martin — in order to successfully complete their playoff push this year. White Sox outfielder Alex Rios is a name being thrown out there, while an addition at first base is needed too. Seattle outfielder Raul Ibanez has had one of the best first halves of his career and should be a player the Pirates target as well.
6 Garrett Jones was pretty emphatic when he said on Sunday that the Pirates don’t need to trade for another bat. Although the Buccos were coming off their 27th game of scoring three runs or fewer during a Sunday loss to the Mets, he said all the offense needs is a little more consistency. Adding a proven bat will provide consistency. At some point, you have to give up on an inconsistent player for that particular year. Standing pat isn’t going to help the Pirates, who can be serious contenders with some sort of offensive jolt.
7 There was a bit of a sports debate this week on how the Mets are handling talented starting pitcher Matt Harvey, who will start the All-Star Game for the National League tonight. New York skipped his spot in the rotation on Saturday, partially so he could play in the All-Star Game in his home stadium. Some believe an exhibition game such as tonight’s shouldn’t be a reason to skip a regular season game that matters. But the Mets aren’t going anywhere this year. Why not let him enjoy the Midsummer Classic as he begins his transition into stardom during another lost Mets season?
8 So Metta World Peace is signing with the New York Knicks. The player formerly known as Ron Artest back when he played at St. Johns in New York, however, doesn’t believe he’s a missing piece to the puzzle. Boy, is he right. Adding Peace is more of a media play than the addition of a player who will help bring the Knicks a championship. It’s another reason why New York will fall short of its goals once again next year.
9 Former Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel was projected to be the top pick in last month’s NBA draft, yet he fell to No. 6 because of his size and the fact that he tore his ACL in February. Because of this projection that was all media based — boy, were they wrong — Noel will wear the No. 5 due to the five teams who passed him up. I can’t really fault Noel for this — even as silly as it may sound. He should pursue whatever it takes to get him motivated.
10 Circle Dec. 28 on your calendar, UFC fans. That’s the date of middleweight champion Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva II. It hasn’t even been two weeks, but the rematch is in place after Weidman shocked the world and knocked out Silva, who hadn’t lost for seven-plus years. Apparently, Silva is “eager” to get his championship back according to his manager, Ed Soares. Maybe Silva will fight with his hands up this time? The card also features Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate II after a competitive first round ended in Rousey’s armbar win over a year ago.
The preceding was The Walk Talk 10, which runs in the Tribune's sports section every Tuesday. Assistant news editor Dan Walk can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.