Baseball is a superstitious sport, and that is not limited to routines on and off the field. It also includes discussing certain topics.
Talking about depth in the pitching staff is one of those topics, and that is precisely why Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona was hesitant to discuss the wealth of arms and experienced players he and his staff have to choose from when formulating the opening-day roster toward the end of spring training.
“Never real comfortable saying that we’re comfortable with depth because the minute you do, something happen,” Francona said.
Although Francona was initially hesitant, he did break down why he is hopeful the Indians could have a solid pitching staff in 2017.
In 17 games during his first year at the Major League level, hard-throwing right-hander Mike Clevinger posted a 3-3 record with a 5.26 earned run average.
Over 53.0 innings of work, Clevinger allowed 50 hits, 31 earned runs and eight home runs, but opponents hit just .246 against him and were able to work only 29 walks against 50 strikeouts.
“Clev, we love Clev, but you’re still talking about a prospect as opposed to a known quantity,” Francona said. “When he came up and started, there were some hiccups, which there’s going to be, but we still like him a lot. He’s got life on his fastball. He’s got a breaking ball. He’s got a changeup. He’s got size. There’s a lot to like.”
There were plenty of jokes made about Indians starting pitcher Ryan Merritt before he took the mound for Game 5 of the American League Championship Series against the Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre last October.
From members of the media predicting 15-0 and 18-0 Blue Jays wins to Toronto star outfielder Jose Bautista saying Merritt would be shaking in his boots more than the sluggers in the other dugout would be, everybody counted out the Indians’ rookie hurler. Everyone except for the Indians themselves, and that’s all that mattered.
Making just his second start for the Indians and first-ever postseason appearance, Merritt more than held his own against the Blue Jays and played a critical role in the Indians’ 3-0 ALCS-clinching victory.
Merritt allowed just two hits and no walks with three strikeouts over 4.1 innings of work against a Blue Jays lineup with plenty of pop. Merritt set the Blue Jays down in order in each of the first three innings, and when third baseman Josh Donaldson smacked a one-out single to center field, he got a ground ball that Francisco Lindor, Jason Kipnis and Carlos Santana turned into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
“Merritt is different,” Francona said. “He’s a finesse lefty that showed in a brief…whatever chances he got that he can get people out.”
The key going forward is getting those younger players experience pitching at the Major League level.
“(Adam) Plutko came up at the end and got in some games,” Francona said. “He’s starting in Triple-A, most likely. Cody (Anderson), we’ve got to see where that leads. (Shawn) Morimando we got a glimpse of. We love what he potentially could be, but he needs to pitch, and that’s okay.”
© 2017 WKYC-TV