What has felt like an inevitably has finally come to fruition for Cleveland Guardians relief pitcher James Karinchak. Karinchak has been optioned to Triple-A Columbus to make room for Tim Herrin who has been recalled by Cleveland.
The permanence of this move is rather questionable considering the amount of bullpen arms utilized in Friday's 14-inning marathon win over Houston. The Guardians ended up using seven relievers in the contest, including the only left-hander in Sam Hentges. Hentges has pitched three times leading up to this weekend, totaling 4.1 innings, 2 coming last night. With that in mind, Cleveland may not have a lefty to turn to in the bullpen if they did not make this move.
Looking at Karinchak, it was not his finest hour Friday as he allowed a run to score in a critical situation. The Guardians had just tied the game at 5 and in comes Karinchak to make an appearance in a crucial situation and was not up to the task. A one out walk followed by a double and then a sacrifice fly is what temporarily gave Houston a 6-5 lead. Karinchak did manage to get out of the inning without allowing any more damage, but did walk another batter before it's conclusion.
This season has not gone well for Karinchak as he has imploded at several inopportune times. Even though Friday was the first run allowed by Karinchak since May 27th, this has not been a particuarly good season. Karinchak's ERA (3.90) finally got low enough to not be a career-worst (4.07) while his WHIP (1.229) is the worst of his career. The 12.4 strikeouts per nine is the lowest mark and his walks per nine (6.2) is currently the highest in what has been a disappointing campaign. Even the little run of good outings was not good enough to bring those numbers back to where they were expected to be before the season.
Karinchak will be back with the Guardians at some point. Whether that is after being optioned in name only or after a few appearances to work on some clear issues is the question. The best path may be to let him make an appearance or two at Columbus before he can try to work his way back into making major league appearances of consequence.