CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – With the trade deadline approaching and the Indians’ focus likely on the starting pitching market, Danny Salazar is thought to have the most leverage on the team’s decision making.
But could another member of the Indians rotation keep Chris Antonetti, Mike Chernoff and company from making an addition?
With Tuesday night’s 6 innings without an earned run, Mike Clevinger has now turned in four straight quality starts, allowing two runs in the last 24 innings. Half of his 12 starts have been quality, with one out coming between him and his 7th.
In his last six outings, the right-hander boasts a 1.36 ERA and 26.9 K%, allowing opponents to slash a paltry .161/.277/.259.
Walks were the issue with the 26-year old early on in the year, preventing Clevinger to go deep into games. The righty has been stretched out of late, hitting the 95 pitch mark in each of his last five starts.
The measured control has been a work in progress, by Manager Terry Francona says things are looking up the more Clevinger throws strikes.
“It’s exciting. It’s really exciting,” Francona said. “He and Mickey (Callaway) have been working really hard about attacking the zone, and he’s doing it more and you’re seeing the results.”
For the laid back righty, the mental aspect has been as important as the physical side. While he is working on keeping the ball in the zone, he is also balancing the moment.
“I think it’s just that controlling the intensity,” Clevinger said. “Let the intensity take over and play its role when need be, and kind of using that – like Tito put it, like a bull coming out of Spring Training, honing that in to use it to my advantage.”
As Clevinger emerges as a legitimate major league starter, the Indians seem to have more flexibility with their rotation given the inconsistency of Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin and Salazar.
The idea that the Indians do not need to add to their rotation is largely born out of the seeming certainty that they will win the AL Central despite their struggles. That seems to be less of a certainty with every passing day, but if it is true, a third starter would only pitch one game in the divisional round, with a potential for two more in each of the following series.
Where the need for another arm may arise are in the case of an injury, which sapped the Tribe out of their two best arms not named Kluber for the post-season. It is easy to assume that the results may have been different had Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar been healthy, as the Indians needed just one more win with a 3-1 advantage in the World Series.
Can Clevinger be trusted to give the team quality, meaningful innings with just a short track record of success? Will teams make quick adjustments to the young righty, as they do in this league seemingly overnight, and will Clevinger be able to counter?
The other way a need for a quality arm would arise is if the team struggles to win the division, but it would be for depth purposes, not because the team would need an upgrade over Clevinger. That scenario, again, seems ever present with just a 1.5 game lead over Minnesota.