Despite the loss of several pitchers over the last two years, the Indians still have one of the best rotations in the league. Here’s a breakdown of the men who will take the mound for the Tribe.
Shane Bieber – at the young age of 25, Bieber finds himself as the Indians veteran pitcher. The 2020 American CY Young winner is the ace of young pitching rotation save the fact he is in the same age range as the other pitchers.
In last year’s shortened season Bieber owned the triple crown. He led the majors with eight wins, a 1.63 ERA and 122 strikeouts. He is a leader both on and off the field. The right-handed pitcher is 34-14 in his three seasons in the big leagues. As spring training was underway the questions of Bieber’s future with the team were lingering.
When he was asked by reporters about a contract extension, he was visibly excited. Although, any official talks have not occurred the All-Star pitcher had this to say “It’s absolutely something I’d be open to. In terms of conversations, it really hasn’t happened yet, so that’s something I’d love to dive into and hopefully that will be reciprocated as well.”
He’s the foundation of the rotation and one that the organization has expressed wanting to keep for a long time.
Zach Plesac – the Indians signed the now 26-year-old in 2016. Plesac made his way through the minors to become an important part of the rotation. The right hander can be a dominating pitcher. He pitched well last season but was part of some off the field controversy.
He broke the teams COVID curfew and was sent to the minors for three weeks. When he rejoined the team, he showed mental growth from his mistakes. Plesac pitched six innings his first game back and allowed only one run.
He has found the ability to command his pitches in and out of the strike zone. One of his strengths is he doesn’t walk guys and he shows confidence on the mound. It appears he’s grown from the curfew incident and really proven himself to his teammates.
Aaron Civale – the projected number three starter set the bar high in his spring training debut. He threw 2 2/3 perfect innings including a pair of strikeouts.
Civale is a 25-year-old right hander who has done some work on his mechanics during the off season. He has worked to switch from a standard changeup to a split changeup.
Civale pitched solid in 2020 however was the victim of the team’s lack of offense. He was 4-6 despite several quality starts. He’s also put in a lot of work in the offseason and looks to be a solid starter for the Tribe.
Triston McKenzie – the honors of the youngest pitcher in the rotation go to McKenzie. The 23-year-old exploded on the scene in his major league debut last August.
He gave one of the best starts ever by a Cleveland pitcher to begin their career in the majors. McKenzie struck out ten betters and allowed just one run over six innings. His fastball topped out at 97 mph. He had earned a starting position when Mike Clevinger was traded and never looked back.
He was able to maintain his walk and strikeout rates that made him a feared prospect in the minors. The 6’5” right-handed pitcher has been given the name “Sticks” due to his body frame.
This is somewhat a concern as he has had injuries in the past. The staff will be vigilant to keep an eye on his velocity and mechanics to identify any early indicators of wear. However, he is one of the most exciting pitchers on the staff.
5th Starter - This is where it gets muddy. There have been several names thrown out for the number five spot. Spring training will be the time for the organization to get a feel for who they’re going to use.
It’s not that much of a bad thing to have that much good pitching. The guys in contention to fill the open spot left by Carlos Carrasco are Cal Quantrill, Logan Allen, and Adam Plutko. It appears that Quantrill will get the nod as he fired two scoreless innings in his Cactus League debut.
He carried a 2.25 ERA in 32 innings last season. Allen is the only southpaw in the mix with a ton of potential. The Indians organization is genius at growing that potential. So, for now it seems the pen would be the likely fit for Allen.
Plutko filled in for Plesac and Clevinger when they were assigned to the alternate training site last summer. He was roughed up in the few starts he made and found his way back to the bullpen. So, while the official number five hasn’t been named Quantrill seems the likely fit.