Cleveland Indians: August injuries could lead to October celebrations

(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

The Cleveland Indians are plagued by injuries in August 2017, which is better than last year when they were plagued in October.

It’s almost incredible that the Cleveland Indians are enjoying as much success as they are in August with as many injuries as they’ve had. The likes of Giovanny Urshela, Yandy Diaz and Ryan Merritt are quickly becoming fan favorites. Could this lead to a celebratory October?

Amazingly, the Cleveland Indians are 14-9 in August. With five games left this month, they could reasonably go 17-11 or 18-10. With all the injuries the Indians have suffered, are we looking at a bright October future?

The injuries

First, let’s look at the injuries. Starting outfielder (he could start in center or right) Lonnie Chisenhall. Out. Michael Brantley, out again. Jason Kipnis. Can’t stay healthy. Andrew Miller. Knee is dying. Danny Salazar. As soon as he’s winning, he’s losing. Josh Tomlin. Getting old.

That’s six out of a 25-man roster who are now injured, or 24 percent! And I didn’t even count Boone Logan. Name one team in the majors that could go 18-10 in a month where that team played zero games against teams under .500. I’ll wait.

Who’s stepping up?

Jay Bruce has filled in extremely well so far for the Tribe. He’s currently hitting .328 with four homers in 16 games since joining the Tribe. Giovanny Urshela is suddenly hot, with four hits and five RBI in his last two games. Austin Jackson is having a great season, and a good August, batting .276 with two homers and nine RBI in 17 games.

Joe Smith has three holds and has only allowed runs (three) in one outing so far. Tyler Olson has pitched ten innings, allowing zero runs in 15 appearances since July 21. Even Yandy Diaz, early season flame-out, decided to earn four hits Thursday night, inches away from hitting for the cycle.

What happens when everyone is healthy?

The September call-ups are going to happen before anyone on the above list returns to the lineup. While Terry Francona is probably not incredibly happy with how the injuries have played out, he is surely thrilled with how the Cleveland Indians have played with these absences.

Fortunately, Francona will have fewer hard decisions to make when everyone returns healthy because rosters expand to 40 men, meaning that no one goes back to Columbus.

More from Away Back Gone

Erik Gonzalez, Tyler Naquin, Shawn Morimando, Ryan Merritt, and Kyle Crockett are candidates who will likely see some playing time. If the Tribe decides to call up Francisco Mejia, their top prospect, the Indians could be set in September and beyond.

When everyone comes back, which they all project to, it will be interesting to see what Terry does with his lineups. I’ve written about this here.

Francona and the Cleveland Indians can really play around with matchups with such strong candidates coming back.

Bradley Zimmer will likely lose most of his playing time when Chisenhall and Brantley return.

Bruce will see more time at first base. Urshela will turn into a late game defensive substitute. Zimmer will also be a late game defensive sub. Guyer will continue to play his role. An outfield of Brantley, Chisenhall and Bruce doesn’t scare teams defensively, but the offensive firepower that comes with them is very good.

August experience leads to October success

Remember when Michael Martinez grounded out to end the World Series? Why was he even in that position? The Cleveland Indians became injured at the wrong time in 2016. Many of their injuries happened in September, so the role players who needed to step up didn’t have enough time to gain real-game experience.

Wouldn’t we feel better if Giovanny Urshela or Austin Jackson came up in Game 7 of the World Series in 2017? After how much these guys have played (and succeeded), I surely would.

Also, with Francona mimicking Joe Maddon’s matchup-heavy approach, the Indians will have a player for almost every single situation that could arise. Need a matchup lefty? No problem. How about a starter to come out of the bullpen? Salazar, Bauer and Clevinger have all done that.

We have defensive subs at every position, so Coco Crisp won’t have to start in left field. We have a few defensive aces (Urshela and Zimmer), a pinch-hitting hit-by-pitch artist (Guyer), and a bench with guys who have real playoff experience (Perez, Jackson).

Next: Indians draft recap

While many of these players are currently playing more often and at a higher level than we might expect in the playoffs, Indians fans have a lot to smile about.