Impressive and improved Hunter Gaddis giving Cleveland Guardians rotation a lift

Cleveland Guardians v Oakland Athletics
Cleveland Guardians v Oakland Athletics / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

It wasn't ideal for the Cleveland Guardians to lose Triston McKenzie before the season even started, but replacement Hunter Gaddis is more than holding his own in the rotation.

Gaddis was mighty impressive in his second start of the season Wednesday against the Oakland Athletics, pitching six strong innings and giving up just one hit while walking two and striking out four. With seven straight days of games to open the season, with multiple close, extra-inning affairs, the Guardians needed Gaddis to give them some length on Wednesday and he did just that.

Through those two starts to begin the year, Gaddis looks quite comfortable in the rotation. Cleveland's 2019 fifth-round pick currently sports a 3.72 ERA, with a 115 ERA+ and 2.79 FIP. His expected stats are even better, thanks to an xERA of 2.31 and an xBA of .169.

The key, perhaps, so far this season is Gaddis' increased usage of the cutter, which has become his primary pitch in 2023. The soon-to-be 25-year-old is throwing it 38% of the time in 2023, with batters hitting just .167 off of it (Gaddis threw the cutter just 23% of the time in 2022). It's been a great complement to Gaddis' four-seamer, which he throws at about 93 mph and is getting far more swings and misses from this year.

The sample size is of course minuscule - even going back to last season's whopping 7 1/3 innings - but Gaddis worked hard in the offseason to be more consistent with his arm slot, and it's certainly paying off so far in the young campaign. With McKenzie out for at least eight weeks with his right shoulder strain, Gaddis will get plenty of opportunities to continue improving and might ultimately make a case to be a long-term rotational arm.