How Will the Indians Spend the Final Week of the Regular Season Setting Up Their Playoff Roster?
Within the next couple of days, maybe even today, the Cleveland Indians will clinch a spot in the expanded eight team American League playoff field.
So, Terry Francona, Sandy Alomar Jr., and Carl Willis are tasked with getting the Tribe ready for the wild card series, which begin either Monday, October 5th or Tuesday, October 6th.
The team changed its starters for the series against the White Sox, with our guess being Shane Bieber being moved back to Wednesday’s game so he will be ready to go in game one of the first series. We would imagine that Adam Plutko will slide into Tuesday’s start.
Apparently, the brass already made the change with the batting order, and hoping the new configuration, with Francisco Lindor leading off, and Jose Ramirez moving to the #3 slot, will provide more runs.
It’s not the style of the Indians’ leadership to make another change at this late date unless there is an injury.
Who would start game two? If the Tribe is involved in a series that starts Monday, it would be difficult to see anyone but Zach Plesac getting the nod.
If Cleveland starts on Tuesday, Carlos Carrasco could make his next start on Friday night, and still take the hill in the second game of the first round series.
These last seven games will also be a trial for the bullpen, as Willis and his crew try to firm up the pecking order.
We know Brad Hand is the closer, and James Karinchak will be the guy the Tribe uses in the 8th or in the “Andrew Miller” role, the highest leverage situations.
But who would pitch the 7th inning if a reliever is needed in a close contest?
We would bet the staff will take a long look at newcomer Cal Quantrill, particularly because he could go more than one inning if needed. He and Nick Wittgren would seem to be the arms that take care of the 6th and 7th innings.
Where does that leave veteran Oliver Perez? He would come on for a tough lefty bat, or maybe for a full inning if two left-handed hitters are scheduled.
We believe the coaching staff has high confidence in the southpaw.
And Phil Maton could be used in a similar role vs. right-handed bats.
With the Wild Card Series being a best of three series, it means there is seemingly no role for Aaron Civale and/or Triston McKenzie.
We don’t know how Civale’s stuff plays out of the bullpen, unless it is in a long relief role, but we could see a rested McKenzie coming in for an inning or two if the starter can’t get through five innings.
That would seem to mean Cam Hill and Plutko would be used in mop up roles.
We also believe Delino DeShields will be the primary centerfielder in the playoffs. We wish Oscar Mercado would have received the bulk of the playing time after he was recalled, but he hasn’t, and he hasn’t exactly torn the cover off the ball when he has played (5 for 31).
Will Mercado platoon with Josh Naylor in LF or Tyler Naquin in RF though? We know Jordan Luplow will be in the lineup when a lefty opposes the Tribe, but does the skipper, whether it be Francona or Alomar, platoon in both corner outfield spots.
Another question is will the Indians carry 13 pitchers for the post-season? With no off days, it may be necessary, but if they decide to go with 12, who among the extra players at Lake County gets the call?
The Tribe hasn’t made a lot of moves during the shortened season, but would bringing up a left-handed bat off the bench make sense, particularly if whoever would get the call hasn’t faced big league pitching in awhile.
We understand a spot hasn’t been clinched as of yet, but the Mariners aren’t playing well, so it may be over as early as tonight.
But the Indians still have plenty to play for, including passing Minnesota to hop into the 4th or 5th seeding spot. We are anxious to see how the team approaches these last seven games.