Indians Reliever Emmanuel Clase Expected to Miss 8-12 Weeks

T.J. Zuppe might not yet have enough synonyms in the database for “filthy” to keep descriptions of Emmanuel Clase’s 100 mph cutters fresh, but unfortunately, Merriam-Webster will have some time to dream up a few new depictions of Clase’s stuff before the young Indians reliever sees game action again.

The 21-year-old hard-thrower and centerpiece of the Corey Kluber trade was diagnosed with a moderate strain of the teres major muscle in his upper back, Cleveland announced on Thursday. He will be re-evaluated weekly, but the early timetable for a return to game activity is 8-12 weeks, according to the team.

The strain is the same injury that cost Mike Clevinger about two months of action in 2019, though Clevinger was able to return last year earlier than anticipated.

Clase felt some upper arm discomfort following a bullpen session last week. He underwent an MRI on Wednesday, which revealed the strain.

The news was nothing short of big blow to the Tribe’s bullpen, which appeared destined to be anchored in some form by Clase, Brad Hand and young righty James Karinchak at some point this season. 

With the three-batter rule now in place, the Indians will no longer be able to mix and match their specialist arms — Oliver Perez and Adam Cimber will be most impacted — putting more emphasis on relievers capable of pitching entire innings.

Clase, who was dealt to the Tribe with outfielder Delino Deshields this winter, certainly projects to have that ability, appearing to have the makings of a future back-end relief pitcher. He posted a 2.31 ERA in 21 appearances with the Rangers last season and struck out 21 batters his first 23 1/3 MLB innings.

Clase’s strikeouts haven’t been eye-popping throughout his minor-league career, but the combination of the solid strikeout totals and an ability to consistently keep the ball on the ground had one rival front office member tell following the trade to Cleveland that Clase was a very valuable relief asset.

Given he was dealt for a two-time Cy Young Award winner and one of the best pitchers in franchise history, the expectations tied to Clase will always be as enormous as his potential. His fastballs averaged 99.2 mph last season.

“I feel like the sky’s the limit for him,” DeShields said earlier this month of Clase. “He’ll be one of the best relievers in the game. The fans of Cleveland should really be excited about him.”

Any excitement, however, will need be put on hold for at least the next several weeks -- if not longer -- as Clase joins Clevinger (surgery on his left knee) and Carlos Carrasco (mild right hip flexor strain) on the shelf.