The Indians entered the offseason with enviable depth in their pitching staff, particularly among rotation hopefuls. While that led some to wonder whether trades might be considered, to this point the Cleveland organization has not shipped away pitching.
Midway through Spring Training, it seems the situation is beginning to resolve itself — at least as to how things will look when camp breaks. Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer has the latest on the defending AL Central champs.
Per Indians skipper Terry Francona, the current expectation is for Mike Clevinger to hold down a rotation spot to open the season. “He’s strong, and he should be able to be that innings-eater type pitcher,” says Francona.
Of course, Clevinger did a good deal more than eat innings last year. 2017 was a breakout effort for a pitcher who entered the season with just 53 MLB frames under his belt. Over 121 2/3 innings, including 21 starts, he posted a 3.11 ERA with 10.1 K/9 and 4.4 BB/9.
Suffice to say, such a campaign would secure most hurlers a starting job for the ensuing season. For the pitching-rich Indians, though, there are quite a lot of other arms to consider.
At the onset of the offseason, the biggest question surrounded enigmatic righty Danny Salazar, who has long dealt premium stuff but suffered from injury and performance lapses. He wasn’t traded, but now there’s a shoulder injury to worry about. Though it’s possible Salazar will return to pitching off of a mound in a few days, says Francona, the pitcher is “not going to be ready” for the start of the season.
That news more or less sews up a spot for Clevinger, though this organization still has some pitching decisions to make. As Hoynes writes, the club is still waiting to see how the competition plays out between Josh Tomlin and Ryan Merritt. The former has struggled with long balls in recent years but remains an elite control artist, while the latter — who is also more notable for limiting the free pass than for strikeouts — has produced good results in very limited MLB action.
In addition to deciding the outcome of that battle, the Indians will be making some interesting bullpen decisions. Tomlin or Merritt could join the relief unit, but they’ll be contending with a long list of possibilities, including quite a lot of non-roster invitees (as shown in this Indians depth chart). All told, there’s still a good bit of potential roster intrigue in Cleveland.