Cleveland Indians: Overthinking baseball in February

(Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Maxwell/Getty Images) /
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ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 11: Adam Plutko #45 of the Cleveland Indians pitches during the first inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 11, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 11: Adam Plutko #45 of the Cleveland Indians pitches during the first inning of a game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on September 11, 2019 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

First-Pitch Strikes

My final observation that stood out is in regard to the competition for the back end of the Indians rotation. Jefry Rodriguez, Adam Plutko, and Logan Allen all got starts this week. All of them are competing to make the roster with the injuries to the rotation.

Plutko looked the best in his multiple innings of work, holding the Padres scoreless in his time on the mound. For the other two it was an adventure. While Allen didn’t allow runs like Rodriguez did against the Dodgers, both struggled with command.

Rodriguez had difficulty getting the ball over the plate in the first inning on Thursday. He rebounded in the second inning slightly, but difficulties locating his fastball were readily apparent. He could be given a slight pass if the Dodgers lineup made him mentally attempt to be too fine with his location.

That can’t be the reason for Allen, who pitched against a White Sox lineup mostly made up of reserves. Allen also struggled with command, walking three batters in two innings, but didn’t allow any runs.

The Indians will not ask their fourth and fifth starters to be strikeout artists or to be perfect. What they will need are pitchers who can eat some innings and hand a close game over to the bullpen. The inability to throw strikes consistently will almost automatically disqualify a pitcher from earning a back-end rotation spot to open the season.

It is spring training, and gauging pitchers is extremely difficult in small samples. However, locating fastballs is fairly basic and while the kinks are still being worked out, it’s a concern for those pitchers who need good performances.

Overall, the players with realistic hopes of making the Opening Day roster did show well in the games I viewed this week. The majority of all runs scored against Indians pitching were off of the lower-level minor-league pitchers.

The main concern could be that this group may not have the depth it had in years past, but that’s to be expected with how deep the Indians got in their starting and relief pitching over the last two seasons.

Next. Can Nick Wittgren remain a bullpen workhorse?. dark

With February over and Opening Day drawing near, we can now turn our attention to overthinking baseball in March.