Brad Hand will not pitch for the Cleveland Indians in a pivotal home series against the Twins, but James Karinchak is set to join the Tribe this weekend.
The Cleveland Indians will be without Brad Hand for the immediate future. The Tribe closer returned home to Cleveland earlier this week to have an MRI on his throwing arm.
The MRI revealed no damage, but he isn’t available for this weekend’s series against the Twins. No concrete determination has been made on just how long the Indians will be without their once-dominant reliever.
According to Paul Hoynes of Cleveland.com, Terry Francona said Hand is “going to be OK,” and that the plan for him is to “build back up.”
The way the Tribe’s top brass dance their way around bad news reminds me of two parents who try too hard to preserve the innocence of their children by shielding them from the harsh realities of life.
There are 15 games left in the regular season. The Indians have their biggest series of 2019 set to take place over the next three days. Hand was clandestinely flown across the country under the cover of night to have an MRI, and he’s now unavailable to pitch for an indefinite time period.
There is pretty obviously something wrong here, and phrases like “going to be OK” and “build back up” at this point in the season don’t exactly inspire optimism regarding Hand’s short-term future in the bullpen.
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Perhaps the good news is there just flat-out isn’t any time to worry about it. Hand will either be back or he won’t. The Indians have to win with or without him.
At least it’s familiar territory. Cleveland has lost four of the five pitchers from its Opening Day rotation at different points throughout the season, and the Indians have just recently begun to chug along through life without Jose Ramirez.
With Hand’s potential availability over the final few weeks shrouded in a dark cloud of mystery, a door has opened for youngster James Karinchak to flash his stuff at the MLB level.
Karinchak has been a popular call-up candidate among fans on account of his otherworldly strikeout numbers in the minors. He has logged 30.1 innings at various levels of the Indians’ system in 2019, and has struck out 74 hitters.
His largest sample of work is the 17.1 innings he’s tossed for Triple-A Columbus, during which he struck out 21.81 hitters per nine innings. On the rare occasion he allows any kind of contact since his career began in 2017, his batted-ball numbers are all over the place. He has, however, posted some solid grounder rates for both Akron and Columbus in 2019.
As intriguing as it’s going to be to see his strikeout stuff in the majors over the next two weeks, command is a serious concern with Karinchak. He has a 14.3% walk rate in his minor league career, and he’s going to face markedly more disciplined hitters at the MLB level.
In any case, the 23-year-old is about to join a bullpen that is suddenly without its closer. While Karinchak will not likely be used in any high-leverage or late-game situations, his ability to punch out opposing hitters might go a long way toward bridging the middle innings to the collection of pitchers who figure to handle the final outs in the ninth.