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Cleveland Indians: Assessing the back end of the rotation

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

We know the Cleveland Indians sport one of the best rotations in baseball, but the back end of the rotation still has some question marks.

Let’s get two things out of the way here. The Cleveland Indians rotation is all but set in stone. Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, and Mike Clevinger all headline this dominant squad. It’s also fair to assume that Shane Bieber will be the fifth starter in the Tribe rotation.

But there are still some names sitting on the sidelines right now that are all fighting to make the Indians rotation. Adam Plutko has been in and out of the rotation and has proven he can achieve greatness in Triple-A. Cody Anderson hasn’t pitched in over two years, but he’s finally fully healthy and ready to make the big league team. Danny Salazar isn’t quite ready to return yet, but he should be fully healthy around May or June according to reports.

So what are the Indians to do with these three pitchers who appear to be the odd men out? Let’s discuss each case individually.

Cody Anderson

The best thing that can be said about all of these guys is that they have at least one minor league option remaining. It’s safe to assume we will see some of them pitching in Triple-A in 2019. I think that may be the best route to start back for Anderson.

There is no need to rush Cody Anderson back into full-time MLB action. Anderson struggled even when he was healthy. He had a 3.05 ERA his rookie year that shot up to 6.68 in 2016. Anderson certainly isn’t ready to jump into the rotation just yet. But after a few minor league starts, he may have a place in the bullpen.

It’s no secret that what the Indians have in rotation depth, they lack in the bullpen. While sending a guy to the ‘pen won’t work wonders for their confidence, it can help them turn things around as it did for Carlos Carrasco.

It’ll be interesting to watch how Anderson pitches in Spring Training just to see how he’s progressed. But there is no need to rush him back to big-league play just yet.

Danny Salazar

He is… the most interesting man on the Tribe roster. I’m not saying that in a joking manner. We know what the studs on this team are capable of. We know who the underperformers are for the most part. But Danny Salazar remains a consistent question mark. It could be because of his health, and it could be because of performance.

Salazar is another guy who hasn’t pitched in over a year. The Indians didn’t have to rush him back thanks to their pitching depth. But when healthy, we still don’t know what version of Salazar we’re going to get.

We know he has a wicked fastball, but we’ve never seen his ERA go below 3.00. That’s not to say he’s not worthy of being in the rotation, but I wouldn’t say I’d replace anyone currently in the rotation with him.

We’re probably going to see Danny pitching in Triple-A ball to make sure he’s fully healthy. He’s another guy I could see going into the bullpen as a pure fastball pitcher like him can be a good weapon for the Tribe.

Adam Plutko

Adam Plutko is the only one on this list that pitched in at all last year, let alone at the MLB level. It was pretty clear that the transition from Triple-A to the MLB was tough for him. That shine we saw him have in Columbus never really showed in Cleveland.

In Triple-A Columbus, Plutko had a no-hitter and a 1.70 ERA. He was lights out. But in Cleveland, his ERA went up to 5.28 and a 4-5 record. So what does Plutko need to do to make the transition? Spring Training will be an early indicator for him. It’s not meaningful baseball, but it’s still a higher level of play than Triple-A.

Plutko is likely the go-to guy if an injury were to strike the Indians rotation. But I don’t see him starting out on the 25-man roster on Opening Day.

Next. Corey Kluber here to stay in 2019. dark

All of these guys have a shot to play in the MLB this year, but they still have some kinks to work out and injuries to recover from. For now, the Indians rotation will likely stay just the way it is.