We all feared the news was coming, but Tuesday’s announcement that Browns guard Eric Steinbach will miss the season after undergoing back surgery still stung.
“He was a starter, so we’re gonna have to make some decisions to see who plays left guard for us,” Browns coach Pat Shurmur told The Beacon Journal. “So we’ll be going through that process.”
That process includes fifth-round draft pick Jason Pinkston, who has played in Steinbach’s absence during the preseason is in the running to take over the starting left guard spot between Alex Mack and Joe Thomas.
Pinkston has impressed the coaches so far.
“I tell you what, Jason Pinkston has made huge, huge strides in three-plus weeks,” Shurmur said. “It’s one thing to be on the perimeter running routes as a rookie and doing it, but when you’re in there in the thick of it, it’s very challenging for those big guys. It really takes development and seasoning and I think he’s making huge progress.”
However, is it realistic to expect a fifth-round draft choice to step in and play effectively? One thing working in his favor is that Pinkston, if he is the starter, will have Thomas to his left and Mack to his right.
“Sometimes I come up there and I freeze a little bit,” Pinkston told The Beacon Journal. “Joe will say, ‘Do you know what you’re doing?’ Then I have Alex to my right. Those guys have been great.”
If Pinkston doesn’t cut it, the Browns may be forced to turn to Oneil Counsins, who the team claimed off waivers from the Ravens this week.
Cousins was the Ravens staring right tackle when the preseason started, but was moved to right guard after a bad game and then demoted. The Ravens then signed Bryant McKinnie, who was cut by Minnesota after showing up after the lockout at almost 400 pounds.
We don’t like where this is headed.
With Steinbach in the lineup, the Browns had a great left side of the line, now you just don’t know. Plus, with Peyton Hillis (252 pounds), Owen Marecic (245) and Montario Hardesty (227) the Browns were building a beefy backfield that would have looked good running behind Thomas and Steinbach.
Now they’re left trying to fill a major hole less than two weeks before the season opener.
The Indians didn’t want to let the Browns have all the player transaction news on Tuesday, so they got in on the action by sending Matt LaPorta to AAA Columbus in a move that was, in some ways surprising while also being overdue.
Someone had to go to make room so Jeanmar Gomez could start Tuesday night and LaPorta, the centerpiece of the C.C. Sabathia trade of 2008, earned the short straw with his season-long poor play.
LaPorta is hitting .238 with 18 doubles, 11 homers and 44 RBI in 97 games. He has struck out 79 times, while drawing 20 walks. He heads down I-71 with a .289 on base percentage and a .404 slugging percentage.
The question is, what took so long?
LaPorta hasn’t been good all year; his monthly batting average and OBP are April (.247/.337), May (.240/.301), June (.239/.271), July (.217/.246) and August (.246/.266) all bear that out.
Plus he seems to not have a lot of baseball smarts, especially in the field.
So, to summarize, the Tribe traded Sabathia and wound up with:
- LaPorta, now in Columbus
- Michael Brantley, on the disabled list with his .266 average and .318 OBP
- Rob Bryson, still in the minors
- Zach Jackson, out of baseball
Boy, that sure worked out well.