Zach Plesac provides much needed glimmer of hope for the Cleveland Indians
The Cleveland Indians moved one step closer to being back to full strength on Thursday (July 8) by bringing back Zach Plesac from the injured list. While Plesac is just one of many injured players, he’s the first of the big three in the starting rotation to return from the injured list.
After being too aggressive in the art of removing his shirt in the locker room, Plesac landed on the injured list back on May 26. Now over a month later, he’s ready to return and it couldn’t have come at a better time as the Tribe are in the midst of a nine-game skid, including being swept by both the Houston Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays.
Cleveland has had their fair share of injury troubles this season, but they all seemed to pile on top of one another at the worst time as the team prepared to face two of the toughest teams in the American League, back-to-back, with essentially a Triple-A pitching staff.
While the offense had started to catch on lately, they scored more than four runs just once against Houston or Tampa, including being no-hit on Wednesday against the Rays. Thankfully it was only seven innings, so the MLB won’t recognize it as the team’s third no-hit at the plate this season.
Now, the Cleveland Indians get to return home for a four-game set against the Kansas City Royals heading into the much needed All-Star break. Being back home should help and Kansas City is a beatable team, but the return of Plesac might be the best news of the new series.
While Plesac was the first of the 2016 MLB Draft class trio of starting pitchers to get hurt, Shane Bieber and Aaron Civale soon followed. Bieber hit the list on June 14 and Civale was close behind on June 24. While they were only two starters, they at least provided days to look forward to and give the bullpen a break. Once injured, it became a free-for-all in an effort to find something of a starting rotation.
The Tribe tried a slew of pitchers that included J.C. Mejia, who was sent down to make room for Plesac, Triston McKenzie, who is expected to start on Friday, Sam Hentges, Cal Quantrill, Logan Allen and Eli Morgan. Somehow, they pieced together a rotation that held their weight for a bit, getting up to nine games above .500. Then came the difficult games against Houston and Tampa Bay.
To make matters worse, Cleveland will face both Houston and Tampa Bay again before the month of July ends, making a stronger starting rotation a must for the club. The team could, and very obviously should, add another starting pitcher through a trade, but getting back the Big Three is almost as good at this point.
At the time of his injury, Plesac had a 4.14 ERA over 10 starts. While that might not seem great and is the highest of the trio, it’s still better than all the other pitchers the club gave a shot to start. Outside of Quantrill, the other five that started all registered ERAs north of 6.30.
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While Plesac only can start one game out of every five, he still provides that glimmer of hope. It’s a day to look forward to with strong pitching and hopefully an easier day for the bullpen once Plesac’s pitch count can get back up. The good news doesn’t stop with Plesac’s call-up either.
Aaron Civale got an update on July 5 that he has been throwing lightly from 45 feet. With a sprained middle finger, that’s a pretty good sign. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but he’s progressing the right way. As for Shane Bieber, there hasn’t been much since June 30, but he seems to be on a similar track as Civale.
Once those two come back the Tribe’s starting rotation, and pitching as a whole, will be a different beast to opposing teams. It will no longer be a Triple-A rotation, but one with three All-Star caliber pitchers.
Once those two are back, the only player still missing from the roster that has really hurt the team’s production will be Eddie Rosario who went on the injured list earlier this week. However, he still has a mid-July return date, meaning there’s a solid chance that the Cleveland Indians could be as close to full strength as their going to get by the end of the month.
The downside is that this month is going to be the most important of the regular season given who the Tribe are playing. However, if they can keep their head above water and get healthy, they still have a shot this season. Plesac is just the first step and will hopefully showcase what’s to come once everyone is back.