CLEVELAND — For the first time in nearly a decade, one of the mainstays in the Cleveland Indians’ pitching rotation will not be in Goodyear, Arizona as two-time American League Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber was traded to the Texas Rangers during the offseason.
Without Kluber, the Indians still have up-and-coming pitchers like Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac competing alongside veteran starters Shane Bieber, Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger and Adam Plutko.
The Indians’ pitchers and catchers report to the team’s spring home near Goodyear Ballpark in Arizona today and will spend the next six weeks going through their work in preparation for the 2020 season.
Here is a look at three questions facing the Indians’ pitching staff as they report to spring training.
What will the rotation look like?
Barring injury or trade, Clevinger is likely the No. 1 starter while Bieber, the reigning MLB All-Star Game Most Valuable Player, should be slotted in at No. 2 and Carrasco at No. 3.
After that, the competition for the Nos. 4 and 5 spots are very much up for grabs with Plesac and Civale having the early edge following breakout MLB showings in the wake of a rash of injuries to top-flight starters during the 2019 season.
Plesac posted an 8-6 record in 21 starts with a 3.81 earned run average over 115.2 innings of work. Plesac allowed 49 earned runs and 19 home runs with 88 strikeouts against 40 walks.
Civale made 10 starts for the Indians in 2019, and despite having a losing record (3-4), he posted a 2.34 ERA with 46 strikeouts against 16 walks, 15 earned runs and 44 hits allowed over 57.2 innings of work.
Plutko is the most tenured of the Indians’ contenders for the fourth and fifth spots. Plutko is 11-10 (.524 winning percentage) with a 5.08 earned run average over 189.2 innings of work in 40 appearances, including 32 starts, in three years with the Indians.
What role will Emmanuel Clase fill?
The Indians found a way to bolster their bullpen and outfield with just one move when they sent Kluber to the Rangers in exchange for Emmanuel Clase and Delino DeShields Jr.
The 6-foot-2, 206-pound Clase is a hard-throwing reliever who made his MLB debut in August of 2019.
Following Clase’s promotion from the Triple-A Nashville Sounds last summer, the 21-year-old right-hander made 21 appearances with one start for the Rangers over the final eight weeks of the season.
Clase posted a 2-3 record (.400 winning percentage) with a 2.31 earned run average and one save. Over 23.1 innings pitched, Clase allowed 20 hits, eight runs, six of which were earned, and six walks against 21 strikeouts while showing the significant increase in velocity that caught Cleveland’s attention.
Clase could be the eighth inning setup man or potential competition for closer Brad Hand.
Will Cookie be able to start?
Carrasco went through something much bigger than baseball in 2019…a midseason battle with chronic myeloid leukemia, and when he returned to the team on September 1, he did so out of the bullpen.
Before going on the injured list, Carrasco had a 4-6 record with a 4.98 earned run average over 12 starts. In 65.0 innings of work, Carrasco allowed 74 hits, 37 runs, 36 of which were earned, 14 home runs and 11 walks against 79 strikeouts.
After his return, Carrasco went 2-1 over 15.0 innings of work in 11 appearances out of the Indians’ bullpen. Additionally, Carrasco struck out 17 batters in those 15 innings.
During his 10-year tenure with the Indians, Carrasco has an 85-69 record with a 3.82 ERA over 230 games, including 183 starts. Over 1,174.1 innings of work, Carrasco registered 1,223 strikeouts against 1,110 hits and 498 earned runs allowed.
In speaking to WKYC.com at Tribe Fest 2020, Carrasco said he is healthy and ready to resume his role as a starter for the Indians.