Cleveland Indians: Starting pitching depth to be tested early

The Cleveland Indians will likely miss Carlos Carrasco and Mike Clevinger to begin 2020. Much like 2019, that puts a lot on the shoulders of Shane Bieber.

For the time being, the MLB season is set to begin two weeks from today on March 26. Shane Bieber is slated to be the Cleveland Indians‘ first Opening Day starter not named Corey Kluber since 2014. Carlos Carrasco does not appear poised to immediately follow him in the Tribe’s second game of 2020.

Carrasco, who has been dealing with discomfort in his elbow, will have to scale back his activity for a period. Here’s Mandy Bell of MLB.com with the scoop:

With Mike Clevinger still working his way back from knee surgery, it’s likely that the Indians rotation to start the year includes former fifth starter Bieber and a bunch of young guys. If this sounds frighteningly familiar, you’re not reliving a bad dream. You’re remembering the 2019 season.

If the Indians were going to struggle in 2019, it was decidedly not supposed to be because of a starting rotation populated by Kluber, Carrasco, Clevinger, Bieber, and Trevor Bauer. Alas, Bieber and Bauer were the only two not to miss significant time due to injury or health concerns. And then Bauer was traded, leaving Bieber as the only Indians pitcher to go the distance.

Now, with Kluber traded and two other starters injured again, one of the story lines that defined the Tribe’s 2019 campaign appears poised to once again be at the forefront to start 2020.

Aaron Civale, Zach Plesac, and Adam Plutko admirably rounded out the back end of Cleveland’s staff last year in emergency capacities. Civale and Plesac now reasonably project as the Tribe’s second and third starters to begin this season.

Plutko will presumably duke it out with Jefry Rodriguez and Logan Allen for the fourth and fifth spots, leaving the Indians with a wealth of uncertainty where they once possessed a wealth of depth.

The current timelines on Clevinger and Carrasco don’t indicate particularly lengthy stints on the shelf for either player, but this is hardly an advantageous position for the Indians to find themselves in just 14 days away from the regular season.

Next: Mapping out life after Francisco Lindor

For better or worse, Bieber will once again be asked to carry the Indians rotation for an indefinite period of time. At least we know he’s up to that challenge.

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