The Indians sent right-hander Triston McKenzie to Triple-A Columbus, as originally noted on MLB.com’s transactions page and confirmed by multiple reporters. Right-hander Kyle Nelson was called up to take the open spot on the active roster.
Selected 42nd overall in the 2015 draft, McKenzie has been a fixture on top-100 prospect list for the last few years, even though forearm and shoulder injuries sidelined him for all of the 2019 season. As a result, this will be McKenzie’s first appearance in Triple-A baseball, after pitching 90 2/3 innings at the Double-A level in 2018.
The Tribe saw enough in McKenzie at their alternate training site last season to promote him to the big leagues without the benefit of any Triple-A time, and McKenzie made an immediate impression. He posted a 3.24 ERA and a strong 33.1% strikeout rate in his first 33 1/3 career innings, and it seemed like he was on his way to becoming Cleveland’s latest homegrown pitching star.
While McKenzie’s future is still bright, the 2021 season has been a speed bump. McKenzie has a 6.89 ERA over 31 1/3 innings, still with a big strikeout rate (30.6%) but not much else positive within his metrics. The 23-year-old has among the worst hard-contact numbers of any pitcher in baseball, and his garish 20.8% walk rate is the highest of any hurler in baseball with at least 30 innings pitched.
The extreme control problems are unusual, since McKenzie had very solid and even above-average walk rate during his minor league career. It’s possible the numbers could just be an aberration, though the Tribe will let him work things out at Triple-A rather than risk more struggles at the big league level.
For taking over McKenzie’s rotation spot, Logan Allen might be the easiest choice to fill in, though he has also struggled over five starts with the Tribe this season. Jean Carlos Mejia or Cal Quantrill could be stretched out as starters, or Eli Morgan or Scott Moss might be options at Triple-A.