Starting pitcher Triston McKenzie has been optioned to Triple-A following a six-run meltdown against the Twins Friday night. That was the third time in his last four starts that he has allowed five runs in 4.1 or fewer innings.
The Indians are optioning Triston McKenzie to Triple-A Columbus and recalling reliever Kyle Nelson.— Zack Meisel (@ZackMeisel) May 22, 2021
McKenzie’s ERA before his demotion was 6.89 and he was walking 8.62 batters per nine innings. His command has seemingly left completely over his last few outings, and even with a strikeout rate approaching 13 per nine, he was giving up too many hits that allowed the free baserunners to come home.
Reliever Kyle Nelson has been recalled in his place, presumably to help out with a bullpen that required four different pitchers to complete the game against Minnesota. One of those relievers was Jean Carlos Mejía, who was outstanding in his major-league debut. The towering righty struck out five over 2.1 innings of work, and the only blemish was a single.
In theory, McKenzie could easily come back and take over his spot in the rotation after the required 10 days in Triple-A following an option, but Mejía could be in line to take over for him — if he doesn’t take over Sam Hentges first.
It’s far too early to permanently jump ship on McKenzie, either way. At just 23 years old and a large minor-league profile of a great strikeout-to-walk ratio, he still has the potential to be a great starter over the long term. He made the jump from Double-A in 2018 straight to MLB in 2020, though, and he may just need some more time to learn and adjust.