Give Brad a Hand; Indians Closer Looking Back to Form After Early Season Issues

Matt Loede

Cleveland Indians fans over the last six days have had plenty of time lamenting how poorly of a start the offense has gotten off to, but that’s not the only concern the team had on the roster.

The other was the last man out of the pen, the “closer” if you will and what arm that would be following Brad Hand’s implosion last week in a tie game against the Chicago White Sox.

Hand was responsible for three runs in just 0.1 of an inning when he entered the game in the 9th, and eventually took the loss in the 4-0 setback.

Since then there’s been an emergence of youngster James Karinchak, who seems to have given Tribe fans renewed hope that all is not lost in the team’s bullpen.

Karinchak came in Thursday’s game against the Minnesota Twins and got a quick 1-2-3 ninth inning, and since then fans basically have wanted him to be the new closer for the club.

On Tuesday in Cincinnati with the Indians leading 4-2, acting manager Sandy Alomar Jr. went to Hand in the ninth, this after Karinchak came in with two outs in the 8th and got Reds dangerous slugger Nick Castellanos to end the frame.

Fans right away took to social media to express how worried they were about Hand being in the game, and how they felt the team should have kept Karinchak in there for the 9th inning to try and earn the four-out save.

Instead Hand proved all his doubters wrong, getting a quick inning without a base runner, as the Indians went on for the 4-2 win.

Having the 1-2 combo of both Karinchak and Hand is only going to make the Tribe better, and Hand getting his confidence back and his velocity up is a key if this team is to stay a contender in this short 60-game season.

Hand himself had to be breathing a sigh of relief after the frame and win.

“Just getting ahead, being aggressive, not trying to be too perfect” Hand said. “Just trusting my stuff and attacking them.”

That’s exactly what has gotten the closer to this point in his career, as on Tuesday he recorded his third save of 2020, and 45th as a member of the Indians.

The 45 saves is second most by a left-handed pitcher in Tribe history next to Sid Monge, who has 46, so it’s safe to say unless there’s a complete meltdown that Hand will break that mark in 2020.

Hand had not thrown in a game in five days, but in the end that might have been a blessing, as for the first time this season his velocity seemed to be up more in the 93-94 range, instead of the low 90s’ which is what he was throwing against Chicago.

“I think I had five days off, the most time I’ve had off in a long time,” Hand said.

“It’s early in the year and you kind of want to get into a routine, sometimes you go through these little stretches where you don’t pitch a lot.”

Hand went to a new pitch on Tuesday night, using a curveball a couple times in the 9th inning, something he has barely touched during his time with the Indians.

“I think last year was the first year I threw zero of them,” Hand said.

“I’d always used it, just something different than my slider, I feel confident, I just don’t know what situations I will be in, but it’s good to have it in your back pocket for sure.”

There is likely to be some more hiccups for sure this season out of the Indians pen, but having a closer in Hand showing confidence again and a Karinchak throwing well just in case can only mean good things for the Tribe.