Figuring out the length of an outing for a middle reliever is not like building up a starter or preparing to throw everything into one inning as a backend bullpen pitcher, but that is exactly what the Cleveland Indians are working on with Zach McAllister.
Formerly a starter, McAllister has been plugged into a middle relief role for much of the last two seasons, and is scheduled to go three innings in his next spring-training outing for the Indians, the defending American League champions.
“I think we talked about that the first day of spring training,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “We wanted to get him stretched out to three. I think we thought that was the proper amount.
“You can’t do it with everybody because you run out of innings, but with Zach, it seems like it allows him to use all of his pitches and it kind of gets him in sync. Even if he doesn’t throw three during the season, this is the best way to get him prepared for the season.”
McAllister has spent all six of his seasons in Major League Baseball with the Indians after being the player to be named in a trade from the New York Yankees in 2010. McAllister was a third-round pick of the Yankees in 2006 out of Illinois Valley Central High School in Chillicothe, Illinois.
A starter who has since settled into a middle-relief role for the Indians, McAllister has a 26-31 career record with a 4.09 earned run average over 186 appearances, 118 of which have come out of the bullpen.
Over 484.2 innings of work, McAllister has allowed 512 hits, 262 runs, 220 of which were earned, and 168 walks, but has struck out 437 of the 2,115 batters he has faced.
“He’s a big, strong kid, and he’s not that old,” Francona said. “He’s got a good, resilient arm. I do think in our bullpen, when he’s doing what he can do, he’s so valuable because he’s resilient. He can get left-handers out.
“When we first put him in the bullpen, I think his biggest fear was he was going to be a mop-up guy, and he quickly found out when he was throwing the ball well, he was getting used in the seventh, eighth inning.”
Although Francona feels McAllister would like to return to a starting role and “wouldn’t write off” such a transition, he believes that the hard-throwing right-hander will continue filling a critical role out of the Indians’ bullpen.
“Again, to be used in those situations, you have to do some things, and he’s working on it, like holding runners and things like that,” Francona said. “That’s why we’re doing this three innings because we want to get him back confident. He’s such an asset to that bullpen because a little bit like (Dan) Otero, he can do multiple things, which is really valuable.”
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