It was another week involving injuries for the Cleveland Indians. After the shocking news at the beginning of the week that Shane Bieber had a shoulder strain, the Tribe also lost Austin Hedges to a concussion on Thursday and in Friday’s 11-10 loss to the Pirates, they lost Jose Ramirez with a bruised foot after being hit by a pitch.
That necessitated veteran Ryan Lavarnway being called up to help out behind the plate, and yesterday, Bobby Bradley, who doesn’t have 100 big league at bats yet, was forced to hit third.
Amazingly, the Indians cobbled together a sweep against Baltimore despite not having any starting pitcher throw more frames than the five pitched by Aaron Civale in game three of the series.
In fact, the last Cleveland starter to go more than five was Bieber last Sunday and he only went 5-2/3. The last Tribe hurler to see the seventh inning was Civale, who pitched eight, one hit innings against the Mariners a week ago Friday.
It’s difficult to imagine that working over a decent period of time without taking a toll on the entire pitching staff.
It was encouraging to see both JC Mejia and Cal Quantrill both go five innings against Pittsburgh in the last two games, so maybe they are finally stretched out enough to get into and perhaps complete six innings in their next start.
The relief corps has taken a heavy toll this past week and yesterday’s game might have been the first sign of pitchers showing wear and tear on their arms.
Bryan Shaw’s comeback story has been remarkable, but he has walked 24 hitters in 28 innings this season, although the damage has been limited because he only gave up 15 hits. However, his last three appearances have been dreadful, pitching two innings, allowing five hits and five walks.
Overall in June, the veteran righty has pitched 7-1/3 innings, giving up nine hits and eight walks for a 9.82 ERA. You have to think Terry Francona will look elsewhere the next time the seventh inning of a close game arises.
James Karinchak also has shown signs of a little wear. Remember, he pitched only 27 innings a year ago, and has already topped that this season. He pitched three days in a row last week in the Baltimore series.
In April, Karinchak was beyond dominant, allowing just two hits and striking out 22 of the 34 batters he faced. In May, he fanned 21 of the 45 batters that came to the plate and allowed only six hits, although three of them were homers.
To date in June, he has whiffed just 12 of the 27 batters who dug in against him, and allowed another home run yesterday. Just something to keep an eye on.
We are sure Francona and the Tribe front office look at the Tampa Bay model in handling the pitching staff without real starters. However the Rays have four pitchers with over 25 appearances, five with over 20, but only one (Ryan Thompson) with over 30 games pitched.
Cleveland has six pitchers with more than 20 appearances, but three of them, Shaw, Karinchak, and Emmanuel Clase, have appeared in more than 30 games.
This might be a subtle difference, but it is something to keep an eye on, and shows again, the need for starters to provide more length. It is very tough for a bullpen to keep this kind of burden over a long season.
The Indians are a team built on starting pitching. To us, as soon as Logan Allen and Triston McKenzie showed they weren’t ready, the organization should have started grooming Quantrill for one of those spots.
After all, he was set to be a starter in spring training. They are doing it now, but they may have lost a couple of weeks of development.
Hopefully, by the All Star break, Plesac and Bieber will be close to returning if not ready. That could provide a boost to a rotation currently running on fumes.