Who are the Cleveland Guardians going to start on Wednesday?
Apparently the plan set up between Terry Francona and Mike Chernoff prior to the Cleveland Guardians’ series with the Colorado Rockies was that Xzavion Curry was going to stay off the mound and start for the team on Wednesday. With Triston McKenzie and Aaron Civale on the injured list and the Guardians forced to do some major roster manipulation over the last week after getting forced into two doubleheaders, they were left with a gaping hole in their rotation.
On Sunday, it was filled with the debut of Logan Allen, who dazzled. The plan was to fill hole number two with Curry.
That plan lasted exactly 5 2/3 innings. Cal Quantrill got shelled by a team that had won just six games prior, and Nick Sandlin and Tim Herrin could only muster 2 1/3 combined innings before Francona tapped Curry. The manager said he didn’t want to force anyone’s hand by throwing Curry in there for the final 3 1/3 innings, of which he allowed no hits, striking out one batter while walking another and throwing 52 pitches. Francona said, though, that he didn’t know where else to go.
Now the Guardians are stuck in the awkward position they were hoping to avoid on Sunday. The most likely - and most exciting - option is for Cleveland to pull the lever on Tanner Bibee and debut the No. 5 prospect in the organization, who is absolutely blazing through the minor leagues. He holds a 2-0 record through three starts with a 1.76 ERA, 19 strikeouts and a 1.04 WHIP through 15 1/3 innings. He last pitched on Wednesday and would be on six days’ rest. What more could Cleveland ask for?
The obvious issue is starting Bibee’s major-league clock, especially if the Guardians believe he needs a bit more time or want to ensure he doesn’t play long enough this season to bring him closer to his arbitration years. Calling up Bibee also means adding him to the 40-man roster, which would mean creating a roster spot on an already crowded roster that has little room for budging. Maybe a catcher is designated for assignment or a reliever gets the boot, but that would mean the Guardians are sure Bibee is going to stay on the major-league roster for some time.
If this issue was organically created by a trade or demotion, Bibee’s promotion would essentially be a lock. But this rotation, one that is struggling to stop even the worst MLB lineups, is in flux because two pitchers are on the shelf and should both return within a month and a half. There’s no reason to move on from a player and add Bibee for a spot start, beginning his major-league clock just to send him back down when Civale or McKenzie come back. It’s one game; how bad could it be?
Option one is a bullpen game, but the relievers have been working a ton over the last week and likely could only be trusted for an inning or two, even with the Guardians having an off-day on Thursday. With Peyton Battenfield on the hill Tuesday for just his third major-league start, it’s almost certain he doesn’t make it past five innings, further complicating the thought of tossing in a bullpen game on Wednesday. Cleveland’s minor-league options include Hunter Gaddis (three days of rest), Konnor Pilkington (three days of rest) and Joey Cantillo (two days of rest), which means all three of them are likely out of play.
Cleveland could possibly call up Gaddis or Pilkington and schedule them for three innings, beginning a piggy-back start that either Herrin or Eli Morgan finishes. That at least takes the Guardians, if all goes as planned, to the sixth or seventh inning where Trevor Stephan, James Karinchak and Emmanuel Clase can seal the deal. That’s a scary proposition, though, because if one of them gets shelled like Quantrill did, you’re stuck executing a plan on the fly that might also lead to forcing the front office to make more moves.
The Guardians also can’t add another pitcher to their 26-man roster without getting rid of another one. They already have the maximum number of pitchers (13) allowed on the roster, which means someone would need to be optioned in order to get Bibee or another player onto the roster.
MLB.com’s Mandy Bell also mentioned that Gavin Williams, who is currently at Double-A, could make the leap to the majors, though that is an unlikely choice and would also require removing someone from the 40-man roster. She mentioned that Williams was in the conversation, according to assistant general manager James Harris, to start for Cleveland on Sunday, the job that ultimately went to Logan Allen. With so much at play, it will be interesting to see how the club navigates the next few days.
They could also just claim Madison Bumgarner off waivers and have him start Wednesday.