There may not be many more electrifying players in the Cleveland Guardians organization that excites teammates and fans alike than James Karinchak.
However, on June 10, just a short few weeks ago, he was sent down to the Triple-A Columbus Clippers after having a rough stint in the majors that resulted in the team's struggles. Now, the talk of the town is whether or not the firecracker the Guardians fans grew to love will have an opportunity in the big leagues again.
"It was not an easy decision and not a fun conversation,” said Guardians Manager Terry Francona after Karinchak was sent to Columbus. “As you can imagine, the hope is he can take this couple weeks and work on commanding the strike zone, work on holding runners."
Before being sent down a level, the struggle was prevalent in his game due to the new pitch clock rules added prior to the 2023 season. One stat-line that was drastically affected was his walks per nine innings, which shot up from 4.8 last season to 6.2 this season.
For the Guardians looking to closeout contests, putting more batters on base is the opposite of what is needed. With his walks going up, his strikeouts per nine innings went down. In the previous season, he averaged 14.3 with it dropping to 12.4 this season.
Originally the plan to help fix the 27-year-old's issues was centered around giving him more appearances and reps at the mound. Before he was sent down he appeared in a league-high 32 outings. So, it was no surprise that when that didn't work, the Guardians organization believed that he needed time in Columbus to reset and regroup to find his form.
Down with the Clippers he has put together a reputable showing through eight contests. Over eight innings he's amassed an ERA of 2.25 to go alongside five walks and 15 strikeouts. After struggling in the majors, the changes he's made have helped him adjust to the pitch clock.
So, does it seem realistic to believe that he can rejoin the first-place major league roster?
For one, the pitching staff in Cleveland is so good that its hard to find someone that he could replace. However, if there was one he would replace it would more than likely be Sam Hentges or Xzavion Curry, whom have both struggled in the ERA department. Karinchak does provide a different role than Curry, but Hentges acts as a relief closer at times, a similar role for Karinchak.
So, if the Guardians decide in the coming weeks that Hentges needs more time to settle in after returning from injury, they could decide to swap the two if needed.
Another option could be the trade deadline where the Guardians are projected to potentially make a few different moves. If they are to move on from anyone within the pitching rotation, that would instantly give Karinchak the opportunity to find his role once again. Outside of him, there are very little other options that the Guardians have to bring up pitching wise.
Alongside the mid-season marks mentioned, the most likely scenario sees him join the team as August rolls around and the team needs fresh arms come playoff time. Bringing him up to the majors gives the others in the rotation the ability to rest and make sure they have enough energy for the more important outings. While he may have dug himself into a hole with the poor start to the season, there is plenty of room for him to find his way back to the major league roster.