No white flags for Indians after Masterson trade

CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians traded top-of-the-rotation starter Justin Masterson to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for outfielder James Ramsey, but in no way is that a sign they have given up on competing for a playoff berth, according to manager Terry Francona.

The Indians entered Wednesday night's matchup with the Seattle Mariners at Progressive Field 6.5 games in back of the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central Division race, and five behind the Toronto Blue Jays for the second Wildcard spot.

"We will never raise the white flag," Francona said prior to Wednesday's game. "That's not an option, and we're going to play."

Indians general manager Chris Antonetti added, "Clearly, our focus is to win as many games as we can in the second half. We continue to believe in the guys in the clubhouse, and there's a lot of baseball left in front of us."

Antonetti said teams could be buyers or sellers at the MLB non-waiver trade deadline, which is Thursday at 4 p.m., and that he currently is involved in other trade conversations.

"We're currently in the midst of conversations to bring players in to impact our Major League team," Antonetti said. "Now, whether or not that happens over the next 24 hours, there are a lot of factors in play, and it's hard to handicap that. We still want to go out and win as many games as we can in the second half.

"We have a lot of other conversations that are still ongoing, so whether or not that ends up materializing into anything is difficult to say. For every 100 trade discussions you have, you're lucky if you get one done."

With Masterson now in St. Louis, the Indians will go with a rotation that features Corey Kluber (10-6, 2.77 earned run average), Trevor Bauer (4-6, 4.25), Danny Salazar (3-4, 4.96), Zach McAllister (3-6, 5.65) and T.J. House (1-2, 4.50).

Bauer is 23 years old, while Salazar is 24, and House, 25.

"We want to find out about some of these guys," Francona said. "Sometimes, when you wait until September or spring training, you don't get the real answer. Having some guys in the fire isn't necessarily a bad thing.

"We did it last year, and we won a lot of games. We beat a lot of teams that thought they were pretty good, and we had a lot of youth going. This is no means throwing a white flag up. We might have gotten a little younger, and to date, Masty's had so many struggles this year, we weren't getting very deep in those games."

Trading Masterson ends his disappointing 2014 season in Cleveland.

Expected to have a triumphant return from a strained oblique that forced him out of the rotation and into the bullpen during the Indians' stretch run to the Wildcard playoff game last September, Masterson posted a 4-6 record in 19 starts, and had a 5.51 earned run average over 98 innings pitched.

"If it was easy to put our finger on it, we would've been able to work more successfully with Masty to turn it around sooner, but I know he has worked incredibly hard alongside (pitching coach) Mickey Callaway, (bullpen coach) Kevin Cash and Tito (Francona) to try to get him back on track to the pitcher we've seen in the past," Antonetti said. "Just to date, it hasn't happened, and hopefully, with him transitioning and getting a fresh start with a new league and a new team, he can have the success that he's had in the past."

In Ramsey, a first-round pick of the Cardinals in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft out of Florida State, whom he led to two College World Series trips and was a Rhodes Scholar candidate for, spent all of 2014 at Double-A Springfield, where he batted .300 with 14 doubles, 13 home runs and 36 RBI in 67 games.

Ramsey currently ranks sixth in the Texas League in home runs despite a three-week stay on the disabled list because of shoulder and abdominal injuries, and started the Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game at the All-Star Game two weeks ago.

"He'll go to Triple A," Antonetti said. "He's played mostly center field, but we view him as being capable to play the outfield corners too. He'll likely get time playing in the corners, as well as center field, in Columbus.

"We've definitely improved our outfield depth over the course of the last 12 to 14 months. I think it starts at the Major League level, but we feel we have depth throughout the organization."


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