Shane Bieber injury leaves Cleveland Indians starting rotation in shambles
This season has dealt blow after blow to the Cleveland Indians when it comes to injuries, but the most devastating one may have just been laid. On Monday the organization placed defending American League Cy Young Award winner and ace starting pitcher Shane Bieber on the 10-day injured list with a shoulder strain, leaving the starting rotation in absolute shambles.
It was only a year ago that the Cleveland Indians had one of the strongest rotations in baseball, being led by Bieber and included Mike Clevinger and Carlos Carrasco who have both been traded, Zach Plesac who is also on the IL and Aaron Civale who is the only one left standing.
Even entering the season there was some optimism left around the position. The 2016 MLB Draft class of Bieber, Civale and Plesac gave a strong foundation and there was intrigue around the group of prospects that were going to be given the opportunity to fill the other two spots.
Now, the prospects have for the most part fallen flat. Some have done better than others, but none have truly emerged as a long-term option to serve in the rotation. On top of that, Plesac and Bieber are both out with injuries, leaving just Civale and a group of prospects to try and muster through a few weeks of the season while the rotation gets healthy and searches for answers.
Over the course of the season, the Cleveland Indians have had 10 different pitchers start a game. Keep in mind that the team has played less than 65 games. Of those 10, only three have an ERA below 4.00. Those three? Bieber, Civale and Cal Quantrill and Quantrill has started just a pair of games with most of his innings being out of the pen. Even before his injury, Plesac still had an ERA of 4.14.
To make matters worse, the Tribe’s answer to Bieber’s injury was to call-up starting pitcher Eli Morgan who allowed six runs in 2.2 innings during his first outing for an ERA of 20.25 before promptly being sent back down. In his defense, he was pitching in atrocious weather, but the fact that there isn’t a better option on the table is concerning.
Assuming that Morgan takes a starting spot in the rotation, that should leave Cleveland with a starting rotation that resembles something like Civale, Quantrill, Morgan, Sam Hentges and J.C. Mejia. Those aren’t really in any particular order and even if they were it wouldn’t help. This rotation is simply awful compared to what fans of the Tribe have become accustomed to seeing.
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Of those five, Civale is the only one to start the year as a starting pitcher for the Cleveland Indians. Quantrill started out in the pen and the other three were all in Columbus when the year began, whether it be as part of the alternate site taxi squad or the Triple-A Columbus Clippers.
It should be said that this current unit has done better than probably most expected. Quantrill was strong as a reliever and is now being stretched out for the rotation, allowing just a single run in two of his three starts so far this season. His other start saw five runs cross the plate, but bumps should be expected as well. Consistency will take some time.
The same can be said for Mejia. He didn’t allow a run over his first four appearances in the majors, which included his first start. His second start saw four runs score, but he tamed the opposition to settle in the middle during his third start with two earned runs.
The issue is that while some guys are having success, they still aren’t going more than four innings at a time. The bullpen is getting taxed and there really aren’t clear starters. Quantrill and Hentges are still being used out of the bullpen while getting starts, so the situation to find pitching in Cleveland is just whoever is available that game.
The good news is that the Cleveland Indians hopefully won’t be without both Bieber and Plesac for too long. Bieber won’t throw for two weeks to let the shoulder heal, so with him having to resume throwing after that and ease back into the game, it’ll probably be at least a month. However, Plesac should be back sooner.
It’s been about three weeks since Plesac went down and he’s now resumed throwing. He’s set to see a specialist this coming weekend, so maybe he can help get the rotation back on track in the near future.
Last month we talked about free agent additions that could help the starting rotation and while those options are still available, this seems like a problem that the front office will just allow time to address. Let’s just hope that’s enough.