Cleveland Indians call up Pitching prospect Sam Hentges
The Cleveland Indians recalled Sam Hentges from the club’s alternate site in Columbus on Saturday. The No. 25 overall prospect in the Tribe’s farm system joined the team prior to Saturday’s game against the Cincinnati Reds.
To make room on the 26-man roster, Cleveland optioned outfielder Ben Gamel to the Tribe’s Triple-A affiliate, the Columbus Clippers which is also serving as the alternate site for the time being. Gamel was hitting just .071, across 11 games played, when he received the news after being hitless in his first 10 games. The Clippers will begin their season on May 4 against the Louisville Bats.
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As for Hentges, the 24-year old will come out of the bullpen and reinforce a relief corps that has logged significant innings of work in the past few games. On Wednesday, Zach Plesac received a shellacking at the hands of the Chicago White Sox and failed to make it out of the first inning. Then on Friday, Logan Allen struggled through his two innings pitched and the club was forced to rely on their bullpen once again. And while Triston McKenzie pitched a great game yesterday, he could only last five frames due to pitch count. As a result, Indians relievers have thrown 20 1/3 innings in the past four contests.
With Tribe ace Shane Bieber toeing the rubber on Sunday and an off-day scheduled for Monday, the bullpen should see some much-needed rest. But having a fresh relief arm available provides added insurance. Also, Gamel’s early struggles likely made the decision an easier one to make for the front office.
Hentges, a southpaw selected by the Indians out of high school in the fourth round of the 2014 amateur draft, hasn’t pitched in a competitive, non-exhibition game, since 2019 due to the cancellation of the minor-league season last year due to COVID-19 and has not made an appearance at Triple-A.
Since making his professional debut in the minors, the Cleveland organization has used him, primarily, as a starter. Down at Double-A for the Akron RubberDucks in 2019, he logged 128 2/3 innings on his way to a disappointing 2-11 record and 5.11 ERA. In six seasons in the minor-league system, Hentges has compiled a 14-32 record, 4.34 ERA and 406 2/3 innings and 433 strikeouts.
The giant 6-foot-8 Hentges underwent Tommy John surgery in 2016 and, like many players who have undergone the procedure, emerged with added strength in his arm which gave him a bit more zip on his fastball. The scouting report shows him settling in 91-94 mph range with the heater, but can get it up to 96 with some sink. His pitching arsenal also includes a cutter, curveball, which is his best secondary pitch, and a changeup. He still needs to work on his control to be a consistently effective pitcher at the major league level.
After taking a first glance at his pro baseball stat headlines, fans might be surprised that Hentges is the first arm called upon to help at the big league level. Especially as he has only came out of the bullpen in ten out of 95 total minor-league appearances. But, as Joe Noga, at Cleveland.com, noted yesterday, Cleveland manager, Terry Francona, made it clear during spring training that, although he views Hentges as a guy who can help in the Tribe rotation, he would not rule out using him as a reliever. Tito has stayed true to that opinion and made Hentges the first call-up of the early season. Should Hentges enter a game while up with the Cleveland Indians, it will mark his Major League debut.
Sam Hentges’ call-up will, in all likelihood, result in a very short stop with the Tribe. As mentioned above, even if he is called into action today, the team has an off-day on Monday before beginning a nine-game homestand. That will give the overworked relievers a chance to rejuvenate. Hentges represents the first of what could be several roster changes as April wears on, and turns into May. The Indians’ most pressing issue is the offense, and therefore they will look to get another bat up, as soon as possible, which makes Hentges a likely candidate for an immediate return to Columbus.