Zach McAllister, T.J. House to fill out Cleveland Indians rotation
Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona and GM Chris Antonetti have made their final decisions on the starting rotation, settling the biggest roster battle of the Spring. Josh Tomlin was optioned to Triple-A Columbus this morning, while Zach McAllister has been declared the Tribe’s starter for the home opener against Detroit on April 10. T.J. House will fill out the five spot to start the year.
However, it will be McAllister who serves in a flex role for the first month or so of the season. The fifth starter will only need to pitch twice through April 21, so it is likely that McAllister will pitch out of the bullpen in between starts. This enables Francona to carry an extra player in the bullpen, or fill out his bench with an additional hitter. It seems the 25th spot on the roster will be a battle between outfielder Jerry Sands and reliever Austin Adams, who was notified he is still in the running for a bullpen spot.
McAllister capitalized on poor performance by Danny Salazar and a season-ending fracture to the throwing arm of Gavin Floyd. He looked sharp all spring, posting a 3.32 ERA and 1.26 WHIP over 19 innings. With 24 strikeouts and only four walks, McAllister’s command was particularly impressive.
Salazar meanwhile struggled to keep his fastball down in the zone, posting an 8.18 ERA and 1.73 WHIP before earning a demotion to Triple-S Columbus earlier in the week. Floyd will miss the entire season with a repeat fracture of his olecranon, though the Indians have yet to assign him to the 60 day DL in order to clear his spot on the 40 man roster.
House had a 5.60 ERA and 1.30 WHIP over 17.2 innings. He spotted his pitches well, striking out 15 batters while only walking three, though he got hit hard at times. The Indians are banking on a repeat of his second half performance from 2014, when he went 5-3 with a 3.69 FIP in just over 100 innings.
While McAllister and House have earned starting spots for now, improvement by Salazar could make for an interesting decision after the first month or so of the season. Tomlin, Shaun Marcum and Bruce Chen are also waiting in the wings should injuries or inconsistency strike.