Let’s Go Tribe/USA Today
Coming into the 2019 season, most people from baseball maniacs to casual fans had a few concerns about the Indians’ roster coming into 2019, but no one would have expected this concern to shift to the starting rotation by early May. Mike Clevinger was pulled from just his second start of the season on April 7th and moved to the 60-day IL with an upper back strain. Just this past Wednesday, Corey Kluber was hit by a line drive in Miami and suffered a fractured right ulna, putting him out indefinitely. Two of the top four starters are out for the long-term for the Tribe. Even worse, this very well could hurt Kluber’s potential trade value (this has been speculated upon since the offseason), as the 33-year old right-hander had already struggled to begin the season.
Compounding the problem is that viable backup options are also injured. Adam Plutko is the closest to being ready, as he joined the triple-A Columbus Clippers this past weekend after getting hurt in April. Top prospect Triston McKenzie still has yet to pitch this season after suffering a back injury in spring training. Danny Salazar, who missed all of last season due to injury, had yet another setback in his road to recovery. Whatever depth the Indians had in their rotation has practically vanished in a couple of months.
So what is next for the Tribe? To start, Cleveland remains with Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, and Shane Bieber from their original rotation. Jefry Rodriguez, who was dealt to Cleveland in the Yan Gomes trade, has started two games since Clevinger went to the IL. Rodriguez was solid in those two starts, and could be a potential option for both the upcoming stretch and when rosters expand in September. Cody Anderson also had a start, but it went terribly in the series finale against Seattle. Despite the problems the injuries have caused, now is a good time for certain prospects to show their potential at the big-league level. Like Rodriguez and Plutko, right-hander Chih-Wei Hu is on the Indians’ 40-man roster, and currently has six starts and a 1-1 record in Columbus with a 4.13 ERA. Not dazzling numbers, but he may be worth a look while Kluber and Clevinger are injured.
There is also a more aggressive option the Indians could take here. Dallas Keuchel is currently still on the free-agent market, and could be a huge boost to the Indians’ rotation. Keuchel is incredibly talented, and would add a left-handed change to what was a completely right-handed rotation. At this point, I would put this option as a long shot, as management has shown they do not want to spend money (which has drawn the ire of many fans). However, Keuchel could be a valuable asset, especially if another injury arises.
I shall end this post with a Mike Clevinger update: When Clevinger went down to injury less than a month ago, he wasn’t supposed to pick up a baseball for 6-8 weeks. On Friday, we saw this on Twitter, and I will leave interpretations as far as what this means to the fans and readers of this article.
Also, Channing Frye will NOT be starting for the Tribe anytime soon.
Cleveland currently holds a record of 18-14, 2.5 games behind the Minnesota Twins for first in the AL Central.