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Mike Clevinger’s bid to stay in the rotation

Week in transactions: Today is a big start for Mike Clevinger, for reasons given below.

MLB: Cleveland Indians-Media Day Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It’s crazy how quickly Yan Gomes has become one of the better players on the roster. As late as April 28, he had a sub-zero B-Ref WAR (Wins above Replacement), so he’s made these gains in an extremely short period of time. His success begins with his newfound strike zone judgement, as he making pitches long-accustomed to throwing him pitches outside the strike zone to have to go back into the zone.

The rotation

Mike Clevinger will be making at least one more start in Corey Kluber’s spot. Kluber may make his next start, according to Terry Francona. If Clevinger pitches well tomorrow and Kluber is on track to return from the disabled list next week, there will some interest in having him replace Trevor Bauer or Danny Salazar, but keep in mind that the Cleveland Indians can’t option either of them. The Indians could move Bauer or Salazar to the bullpen, as they did with Carlos Carrasco back in the day, but I don’t think we’re to the point where that is necessary just yet. However, the Indians could manage it, as Yandy Diaz will be optioned soon and the Indians can go with four outfielders if needed. If Clevinger has a solid start against the Minnesota Twins today, if Trevor Bauer implodes tomorrow, and if Corey Kluber returns to make his next start (May 19), Clevinger could actually make the start on the 20th instead of Bauer. But there are three “ifs” in the previous sentence.

The outfield

From a roster standpoint, it’s a mess right now.

  • Michael Brantley returned to action last night, and it looks like he was fully recovered from the ankle sprain.
  • Abraham Almonte, who left Wednesday’s game with a bicep injury, is considered day-to-day and shouldn’t have to go on the disabled list. Brandon Guyer started last night in his place, even with a right-handed pitcher on the mound.
  • Austin Jackson is rehabbing his foot injury, and it doesn’t look like he’s ready to return yet. He will go a rehab assignment when he’s closer to returning.
  • Tyler Naquin is on the DL in Columbus with a back injury, with no timetable for his return.

First of all, I think Yandy Diaz’s days are numbered, given that he was only going to play third base or left field, and his adventures in left field on Wednesday have Francona gun shy about putting him back there. If Almonte is healthy, then the Indians can make do with just four outfielders (plus Michael Martinez), and Diaz would be redundant. Even if Tyler Naquin were healthy, there wouldn’t be a role for him on the roster, so he’s not really an improvement.

Now if you’re asking me if Brantley/Chisenhall/Almonte/Guyer is a perfect setup, then the answer is of course no. The Indians have one of the worst, or the worst, outfield defensive ratings in baseball, depending on which one you look at. Lonnie Chisenhall in center field is doing far better than I thought he’d do, which is a credit to him, but ultimately I think the Indians need a better fit for the position, allowing Lonnie to move back to right field. Tyler Naquin may not be a center fielder either, given his defensive struggles at the major-league level. Austin Jackson, when he’s healthy, could be given a more everyday role, but he first has to prove he can hit. With any of these choices, the Indians are compromising, either with the bat or with the glove. As Matt mentioned in last night’s recap, Bradley Zimmer, who has played mostly center field in Columbus, becomes a more and more tempting call-up with every passing game.

Transactions

May 5

Traded RHP Yoiber Marquina to the New York Yankees to complete the Nick Goody trade from December 20

Goody has pitched very well in his short time with the Indians, so I think the Indians are happy with how this turned out. Marquina pitched out of the bullpen in Lake County last year, but is going to miss 2017 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He has some upside as a reliever (he’s a converted catcher), but he’s a very long way away from the majors, so I’ll the risk of feeling bad about the trade in 2020 or 2021 for what the Indians are getting from Goody right now.

May 7

Optioned RHP Joseph Colon to Columbus (AAA)

Recalled RHP Mike Clevinger from Columbus (AAA)

May 8

Optioned RHP Shawn Armstrong to Columbus (AAA)

Recalled 3B/OF Yandy Diaz from Columbus (AAA)

Current 40-man roster

May 12 2017