Eli Morgan set to debut for Cleveland Indians in first game against Toronto
The Cleveland Indians starting rotation has become a game of musical chairs. What was once was one of the strongest rotations in baseball just a year ago is now searching for answers. The fourth of fifth spots in the rotation have been inconsistent at best and now one of the steady arms in the mix, Zach Plesac, is headed to the Injured List.
Luckily, Shane Bieber and Aaron Civale have been stellar in their outings, but they pitch only two out of every five games. If the Cleveland Indians want to stay in contention for the AL Central, being 1.5 games back of the Chicago White Sox entering the series against the Toronto Blue Jays, then they need to figure out the rotation.
We’ve talked about almost every route the team could explore, whether it be trades or free agency, but the current route is in-house options. The next on the list to get a shot will be Eli Morgan, making his debut on May 28 against the Toronto Blue Jays. While Morgan might not be the best pitcher on the roster for the Columbus Clippers this season, he was already on the 40-man roster which makes his move the easiest of the bunch.
When I talked about Morgan as an in-house option, I wrote that “if the Tribe want to make a change without having to alter the 40-man roster, this is about all that’s left to try in-house.” Unfortunately, that’s become a reality.
A 5-foot-10, 25-year old right-handed pitcher, Morgan was an eighth round pick by the Tribe during the 2017 MLB Draft out of Gonzaga. So far this season in Columbus he’s started three games for the Clippers, holding an 0-1 record. However, he has been able to maintain a 3.95 ERA over 13.2 innings, striking out 13 batters while allowing six runs.
Morgan will have a tough task in his first major league start, facing a Blue Jays lineup that is peppered with well known names. Toronto will enter the series just a game above .500 with a record of 25-24, but they have the ability to beat anyone if their lineup clicks.
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Opposing Morgan in the first game of the series with be Hyun Jin Ryu, who will face the Tribe for just the second time in his career despite pitching in the bigs since 2013. That one appearance against Cleveland came on July 2, 2014 in Los Angeles when Ryu was a member of the Dodgers. Cleveland would go on to win the game 5-4 with Ryu getting a no-decision after giving up two runs over seven innings.
As for Saturday’s game, the matchup doesn’t look a ton better. The Tribe will pitch Sam Hentges who looked better in his last start, but has mixed results this year. The Blue Jays will send Ross Stripling to the bump who last pitched against Cleveland on June 15, 2017, being in a reliever role for the Dodgers. Going 1.2 innings, Stripling gave up four runs in what would be a 12-5 win for the Tribe.
The series finale on Sunday will feature arguably the best pitching matchup of the series with Aaron Civale pitted against Steven Matz. Civale is currently leading the American League in wins with seven and will be coming off an eight-inning, one-run start against Detroit. This will mark Civale’s first start against the Blue Jays, meaning that all three starters for Cleveland have yet to face Toronto in their respective careers.
As for Matz, the former second round pick of the New York Mets has been one of the stronger starters for the Blue Jays this season with a 6-2 record. In his last start, being against the New York Yankees, Matz struck out 10 batters over 6.2 innings and allowed just a single hit. Of the pitchers in the series, Matz is the only one to have opposed the other team in the last three years, going against the Tribe on August 20, 2019. He went 6.1 innings in the outing and picked up the win.
Given the inexperience of the pitching matchups against their opposition, or just in the majors in general, the series against the Blue Jays is really a toss up. On paper, Toronto has the offensive advantage, but the unknowns of Cleveland’s starting rotation could benefit the club, giving them the “element of surprise.”