Cleveland Guardians lefty reliever Sam Hentges dealing with shoulder inflammation

Division Series - Cleveland Guardians v New York Yankees - Game Five
Division Series - Cleveland Guardians v New York Yankees - Game Five / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

There aren't many holes on the Cleveland Guardians roster (which we'll be discussing in this week's episode of the California Penal League podcast), but if one had to nitpick, you could say there's a potential weakness in terms of the bullpen's depth and its specialists.

For instance, Sam Hentges is the only lefty option out of the pen, which is typically fine given he had a stellar 2.32 ERA in 57 appearances and 62 innings pitched last season.

But now, Hentges is dealing with shoulder inflammation after feeling discomfort this spring in his throwing shoulder, and the Guardians will be shutting him down for what feels like the long-term. They'll be looking at Hentges on a "week-to-week" basis, which means, well, just about anything. And in the worst case, it could put the bulk of his season in serious jeopardy.

So now, Cleveland will be on the hunt for a left-hander for the bullpen. Putting aside for a moment how nice it would have been for them to sign Andrew Chafin even when Hentges was healthy, what is Cleveland going to do?

Tim Herrin, 26, is a lefty on the 40-man roster and could conceivably be called upon at some point. Herrin made his way up to Triple-A Columbus last season, sporting a 4.98 ERA in 47 innings with the Clippers.

And then there's Konnor Pilkington. The 25-year-old lefty started 11 games for the Guardians in 2022 (with 15 total appearances), sporting a very respectable 3.88 ERA. It seems like the most logical choice at this point to transition Pilkington into that full-time relief role, especially as the rotation is currently set with so many other prospects waiting in the wings.

Barring a trade or signing of some kind, it's likely Cleveland opens the season with Pilkington in the bullpen. That's not going to crush them by any means, but it does reveal just a little bit more of that potential weakness moving forward.