CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – Going from six starters to five is one thing, normal even. Going from six starters to four would be borderline catastrophic.
As Danny Salazar has eased back into the starting rotation, the Indians’ group of starting pitchers looked to be headed to having excess be their biggest issue. Now with Josh Tomlin hitting the disabled list for 10 days with a strained hamstring, that excess had gone away.
Second-year right Mike Clevinger was thought to be a newfound pillar of strength in the rotation, emerging as a solid fourth starter behind Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Salazar. But in his last two starts, the 26-year old has started to see his foundation lose strength.
Clevinger made it just three innings on Monday, allowing five earned on five hits and four walks, the latter of which was the biggest concern in his manager’s eyes.
“I mean shoot, it’s three innings and it’s 11 base runners,” Terry Francona said. “Just when you’re walking that many, there’s a pretty good chance you’re not commanding, so when you’re throwing strikes – he just didn’t locate well and he pitched behind in the counts too much.”
After settling down on what was a walk-heavy start to the season, the righty has seen those numbers start to creep up.
Pitching Coach Mickey Callaway had worked with Clevinger on “attacking the zone” a philosophy that helped the young arm dominate six consecutive starts from June 17th to July 18th. Two weeks later, Clevinger said his delivery got a bit out of whack.
“Yeah I just wasn’t finding the zone. I was staying low, but I couldn’t seem to find that outside half,” he said. “I’d say it’s a little bit different (than last start). This time my body felt really good, exceptionally good this start, but I got too erratic, too herky-jerky, too many moving parts.”
With Clevinger and Salazar’s recent success, Chris Antonetti and the Indians front office balked at the opportunity to add from a deep starting pitching market at the day’s deadline.
Not to say that two starts overshadow Clevinger’s six brilliant outings, but a bit of regression would be expected from a second-year starter with a .252 BABIP.
If this is it, that regression would be coming at the poorest of times. The deadline to add any real depth or talent to the rotation passed, the Indians sit just two games up on the improving Royals with a veteran starter on the disabled list and a young pitcher in a rough patch.
The decision to add just to the bullpen was mostly a move to improve chances once in the playoffs, but with a quickly deteriorating rotation potentially, the Indians may rue the decision to not add to their starting pitching.