Cleveland Indians starting rotation injury woes continue: Now what?

Starting pitcher Aaron Civale #43 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Starting pitcher Aaron Civale #43 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
Cleveland Indians, Shane Bieber
Shane Bieber #57 of the Cleveland Indians (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

Cleveland Indians starting rotation injury woes continue: Now what?

It’s official. All five of the starting pitchers that began the season with the Cleveland Indians are either no longer healthy or not on the big league roster. At least not as of the morning of June 22. What began as a stumbling around of struggling prospects in the backend of the rotation has now been paired with a trio of injuries that has left the Tribe with no remaining starting pitchers from April 1.

The beginning of the season saw both Logan Allen and Triston McKenzie struggle to settle in. While McKenzie has been up-and-down with another up potentially coming, Allen’s stay was short lived as the team searched for any sort of stable production from the fourth and fifth starters in the rotation. Then the injuries started coming.

The bullpen was being taxed when Allen and McKenzie’s starts would come around, so Shane Bieber and Aaron Civale started seeing some of the highest usage in baseball to save the pen. Now, it seems to have caught up with the team.

Bieber hit the injured list just over a week ago with a shoulder strain and Civale left last night’s game with a finger injured, both of which could be attributed to the mass amount of innings they have already had to put in this season. Sprinkle on top Zach Plesac losing a fight with a chair and the starting rotation of the Cleveland Indians is essentially gone. Saying it is in pieces or shambles doesn’t even do it justice anymore.

So, now what? What can Terry Francona and the Cleveland Indians do to keep this team afloat? The positive is that the club is 10 games above .500 and within striking distance of the division lead, just two games back of the also ailing Chicago White Sox. The problem now is finding ways to just stay on track.

The Tribe are currently using a hodgepodge of pitchers to assemble some sort of rotation. Cal Quantrill is the only one that started Opening Day on the major league roster, albeit in the bullpen. The team has also found somewhat success, which is used in a very relative manner to the situation, in J.C. Mejia and Sam Hentges. When Bieber went down, Eli Morgan was the temporary answer, but now the resources are about depleted.

There are only three pitchers on the 40-man roster that are healthy and not already in Cleveland. Two of them have already been given a shot in Allen and McKenzie. The other is Scott Moss, who has been struggling in Columbus. One of them has to fill the spot left behind by Civale because the bullpen is out of options to stretch out. Carlos Vargas, who is currently injured on the 60-day IL and hasn’t pitched since 2019, is also on the 40-man but obviously won’t be an option.

While an external answer would be the smart move, the front office still might not budge in that department. A trade would mean losing future assets and a free agent signing is going to cost just as much and won’t be ready for a couple weeks. On top of that, the 40-man roster is full and there aren’t any players to move to the 60-day IL.

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The players on the 10-day include Bieber, Plesac, Franmil Reyes and now potentially Civale. Plesac and Reyes are nearing a return and the hope is that Bieber and Civale won’t need to go on the 60-day. While that’s all good news, it makes for adding a player rather difficult.

The easy answer would be taking a catcher off, but that would require Austin Hedges to return healthy. If he can do that, then Ryan Lavarnway or Rene Rivera can be removed from the 40-man and open up a spot. Then, when Perez returns from the 60-day IL in just a couple weeks, you’re back in the same boat of needing to remove a player from the 40-man roster.

Let’s say that the Cleveland Indians front office makes room to add someone to the 40-man roster, who would it even be? Adding a free agent is going to take time for them to stretch out in the minors, so immediate help wouldn’t be an option there. That needs to come from either a trade or a call-up.

Internally, there’s only one pitcher currently in Columbus that has started a game and has an ERA below 4.50 and that’s McKenzie. So adding a player from there might not be a great option either. The closest might be Kirk McCarty who has a 4.53 ERA over nine starts with the Clippers. It’s not pretty, but there’s quite literally nothing better. The next lowest ERA from a starter in Columbus is 5.79 from Moss, who’s already on the 40-man.

The clear answer here, and possibly the only answer, is to make a trade. It doesn’t have to be a huge blockbuster, but the Cleveland Indians need to add a starting pitcher and soon. Whether it be Tyler Anderson from Pittsburgh, Kyle Gibson from Texas or someone else, the Tribe need an MLB-caliber starting pitcher now.

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