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Cleveland Indians: Who will be the fifth man in the rotation?

(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images) /

With a few days off in the coming weeks, the Cleveland Indians have some time to figure out who they want as the fifth man in the rotation.

In the last week, a few pitchers in the Cleveland Indians system have tried their hands at being the team’s fifth starter.

The struggles of Josh Tomlin have seen him moved to the bullpen. Adam Plutko came up from minors to make a few starts for the Tribe this year. Most recently, Shane Bieber made his major league debut against the Twins on Thursday. The two latter mentioned starters are both young guys who pitched fairly well as the rotation’s fifth man.

The team will have two off-days next week, meaning that the team will likely be able to use their normal rotation without a fifth man. That would likely mean that June 11 or 12 will be the next time the Indians use a fifth starter.

It will likely come down to one of the three aforementioned pitchers, barring a wild trade. Today we will take a look at the three candidates and their likelihood of being that starter.

Josh Tomlin

Tomlin is the oldest and most experienced pitcher of the trio. The 33-year-old is one of the longest tenured players on the roster. He has proven his worth to the rotation in previous years. This year is different for the Texan.

Tomlin has not found his groove this year in any manner. Tomlin has 12 appearances and has allowed 18 home runs in 36.1 innings. His ERA is 7.43 and the 18 home runs allowed are the most in baseball.

Tomlin’s WAR of -1.3 says all that you need to know about his 2018 season. With that said, if anyone is willing to give people multiple chances, it’s Terry Francona. Tomlin may have one more chance to prove himself in the rotation as the other two candidates are currently sitting in Triple-A Columbus. If he doesn’t take advantage of it, it may be the last time we see Tomlin in the Indians rotation.

Adam Plutko

When one door closes, another opens. Tomlin’s struggles mean that it’s time for one of the Indians young studs to step up. Plutko may not be as hyped up or a top-ranked prospect like his counterpart Bieber, but he has still proven himself this year.

Plutko has three wins in as many starts for the Tribe this season. He gets the job done, but his numbers won’t blow you away. Adam has an ERA of 3.93 but the key thing is his walks. He’s only walked five batters in his three starts. Batters have a BABIP of 1.83 against him, meaning the long ball has been his only major weakness.

Plutko’s last outing was by far his worst. The Tribe quickly went down 5-2 before the White Sox handed the game over. Plutko earned the win, however, he allowed five of the six White Sox runs in that game and only struck out two. Perhaps the front office saw something that they didn’t like from Plutko in that outing. That might explain why he was sent to minors after the game.

Shane Bieber

It’s possible that Plutko was sent down so that the Indians take a look at white-hot Shane Bieber. It was a surprise to see Bieber called up to the majors so early his young career. But it certainly made sense. The Indians wanted to see what the kid could do in the big-leagues after dominating the Double and Triple-A levels.

He got off to a hot start early in his first career start. Bieber worked 5.2 innings in his debut and didn’t allow a run until the fifth inning. At that point, it seemed like the Twins were starting to figure him out as they homered off of him twice to send him packing.

Bieber will likely see more time in the majors this year, unless someone else locks up the fifth starter spot. Bieber was sent back down after his first start to make room for a healthy Bradley Zimmer making his return. The Indians will have to make more decisions as their outfielders continue to get healthy.

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Plutko will likely get the next start as the fifth man in the rotation. He has already burned an option this year, so the team will likely continue to use him. He has also vastly outperformed the struggling Tomlin. But anything can happen in a matter of two weeks.