Aaron Civale’s timetable could doom Cleveland Indians season
After becoming the first pitcher in Major League Baseball to reach double-digit wins this season on June 16, Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Aaron Civale exited his start on June 23 with an injury. In the midst of a scoreless start for the Tribe, Civale sustained a middle finger injury that not only pulled him from the game in the fifth inning but dealt possibly the biggest injury blow yet for the Tribe in 2021.
Civale is far from the first injury for Cleveland this year or even the first starting pitcher. However, with him being the last remaining starter from the Opening Day roster the injury hurts even more. Now, it’s looking like the Tribe will be without Civale for at least four-to-five weeks.
Civale will now join fellow starters Zach Plesac and Shane Bieber on the injured list, leaving the Cleveland Indians with a mess of a starting rotation heading into what could be the most difficult month on the schedule.
There’s is a bit of good news as Plesac might be on his way back. The latest injury update has an early July return for Plesac, which could mean the team will be without him for only one more week or so. A rehab assignment will still be needed, but he had a strong bullpen session on Monday which is a good sign.
The bad news is that Plesac is just one starter and the team will need five steady arms in the month of July, not mention Plesac most likely won’t join the team at the very start of the month. Adding to that, Bieber and Civale could be out for all of July.
While Civale’s timetable was released, it’s been over a week since Bieber went down and there’s been little reported about the injury beyond being a right shoulder strain. The team shut him down for two weeks, so hopefully we’ll know more next week at this time. However, being shut down means he will need a throwing program and rehab assignment before returning, which could very well take most of July.
The Cleveland Indians have dealt with injuries all season, so what makes this different? Despite the hardships, Terry Francona still has the Tribe sitting within arms reach of first place in the division and well above .500 at 40-31. The catch is that July will basically be one hard series after another against some of the league’s best talent.
The list of opponents in July for Cleveland consists of, in order: Houston, Tampa Bay, Kansas City, Oakland, Houston again, Tampa Bay again, St. Louis and then the Chicago White Sox to close out the month.
That means that in July the Tribe will face four of the five American League teams that currently have a better record than them, including two of them for seven games each. While the Royals and Cardinals are the lesser of the evils ahead, they won’t be easy wins by any means.
If playing a total of 19 games against the five best teams in the American League isn’t enough, Cleveland will also close out the month on the road against the team they are trying to catch in the division. While the Tribe will have a difficult month, Chicago will start the month with Minnesota, Detroit and Baltimore, which might open the door for them to create space if Cleveland can’t find the win column.
So while the Cleveland Indians have made it this far without much starting pitching of late, they are now down to the screws. Not the studs, those are all injured, just the screws. The likes of Cal Quantrill, J.C. Mejia, Sam Hentges, Eli Morgan and maybe Triston McKenzie or someone else will have to hold down the fort against some of baseball’s best teams.
The Tribe have already proven this season, and in past seasons, that it’s possible to do just that. However, this might be the hardest test for the team this season at least. It’ll will be an all-hands on deck effort all month, even if Plesac returns. The offense will need to be consistent and the starting pitchers serviceable. If all that happens then maybe, just maybe, the Cleveland Indians can escape July and head into August on the brink of being healthy and still in contention.