3:22pm: Manager Terry Francona tells reporters that the team believes Plesac suffered the fracture in his last start, when he punched the ground in frustration after surrendering a home run to Jake Lamb (Twitter link via Mandy Bell of MLB.com).
That’s the second time in his career that Plesac has sustained an injury while expressing frustration. He broke his right thumb last May when “aggressively” tearing off his shirt following a poor outing against the Twins. Plesac was also disciplined by the team in 2020 after violating the club’s Covid-19 protocols and subsequently voicing his frustration in a since-deleted Instagram video.
2:54pm: Plesac has a fractured fifth metacarpal (pinkie finger) in his right hand, the team announced.
2:47pm: The Guardians have placed right-handers Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale on the injured list — Plesac due to a fractured right hand and Civale due to forearm inflammation. Right-hander Cody Morris, just reinstated from the 60-day injured list yesterday when rosters expanded to 28 players, will make his Major League debut and start tonight’s game in place of Plesac. Cleveland has recalled right-hander Xzavion Curry and lefty Kirk McCarty from Triple-A Columbus to take the spots of Plesac and Civale on the active roster.
Plesac, 27, is fourth on the Guardians in games started (23) and innings pitched (127). He’s worked to a 4.39 ERA with an 18.1% strikeout rate, 6.8% walk rate and 40.7% grounder rate. ERA alternatives like FIP (4.50) and SIERA (4.40) generally agree with that assessment of his work so far in 2022. It’s not in line with the form that Plesac displayed in his first two seasons, when he logged a 3.32 ERA through his first 29 big league starts, but he’s settled in as a viable back-of-the-rotation option in Cleveland over the past couple seasons.
Civale, also 27, is making his third trip to the injured list this season. He’s missed time with a glute injury and a sprained right wrist, but this is his first forearm-related issue on the season. While Civale’s overall 5.40 ERA is an obvious eyesore, he’s pitched quite well of late. Since returning from that wrist injury in late June, he’s taken the ball on nine occasions and worked to a 3.68 ERA while striking out exactly a quarter of his opponents and issuing walks at a tidy 6.1% clip.
It’s a poorly timed pair of injuries for the Guardians — not that there’s a “good” time to place 40% of a rotation on the injured list — as they’ve already dropped back-to-back games and seen the Twins climb back to within one game of the AL Central lead. The White Sox, meanwhile, have picked up back-to-back wins and trimmed their own deficit to a manageable four games. The AL Central, at this point, is the only division in Major League Baseball with three teams legitimately vying for the division crown.
With two vacancies in the rotation, the Guardians can turn to Morris and Curry as alternatives in the short-term. The 25-year-old Morris could potentially have been in the rotation right now had he not suffered a strained teres major back in Spring Training — an injury that shelved him until early August. He was selected to the 40-man roster in November after posting a dominant 1.62 ERA and 93-to-20 K/BB ratio in 61 minor league innings last year, and he’s been outstanding on his minor league rehab stint thus far. Between the 2021-22 seasons, Morris has 52 innings of Triple-A ball under his belt, during which he’s posted a 1.90 ERA with a huge 40.6% strikeout rate against an 8.9% walk rate.
Curry, meanwhile, made his MLB debut earlier this season, allowing three runs in a five-inning spot start against the visiting Tigers. The 24-year-old is generally ranked between Cleveland’s No. 10 and No. 20 prospect on various evaluations of the system. He’s been hit pretty hard in two Triple-A starts since being sent back to the minors, but his overall numbers between Double-A and Triple-A this season remain solid: 4.00 ERA, 25.9% strikeout rate, 8.3% walk rate in 108 innings.