Triston McKenzie being optioned was absolutely necessary

Cleveland Guardians v Kansas City Royals
Cleveland Guardians v Kansas City Royals / Ed Zurga/GettyImages

It has been obvious for quite some time that something was not right with Cleveland Guardians starting pitcher Triston McKenzie. With their hands being forced regarding the return of Gavin Williams, it was not a surprise to see the Guardians option McKenzie to Triple-A to make room for Williams' return.

Through 16 starts, there are two areas that stand out as the biggest areas of concern, home runs and walks. McKenzie has given up 19 home runs and walked 49 batters this season, the most in all of baseball as things stand currently. For reference, McKenzie's previous high in both categories was 25 long balls in 2022 and 58 free passes in 2021. His current performance trajectory had him well on his way to passing both marks rather soon and having much less encouraging numbers take their place.

While there are concerns about McKenzie's arm, considering he could have undergone Tommy John surgery and decided not to, this appears to be more of a command issue. Yes, McKenzie's average fastball velocity is slightly down (his current 91.1 average is down one full mile per hour over his career mark), but it would be much more concerning if the difference was more substantial than it currently is.

What the focus must be for McKenzie right now is figuring out a way to get his command back. Sure, seeing him close the gap in velocity would be nice, but the priority is finding a way to give up fewer walks and home runs, as giving batters a free pass and then serving up a batting practice fastball right down the middle in an attempt to get ahead of the next hitter is no way to live.

It is absolutely imperative for McKenzie to regain his command while in Triple-A. The Guardians were already in a position where they needed to add at least one starter to their rotation via trade. McKenzie's lack of effectiveness may have increased that number to two, which is far from ideal. McKenzie being able to get back on track, paired with Williams' return being successful, may make this a less urgent matter. But for now, adding to their starting rotation remains their highest priority.