Aaron Civale, who exited Tuesday’s game against the Cubs, is expected to miss 4-5 weeks after being diagnosed with a middle finger sprain. He is the third Cleveland starting pitcher to end up the injured list this season, joining Zach Plesac and Shane Bieber.
Civale’s trip to the injured list effectively wipes out what was Cleveland’s starting rotation to open the season. Bieber, Plesac, and Civale are all on the injured list, and Triston McKenzie and Logan Allen have both been demoted to Triple-A Columbus after struggling with the big league club. The team will now have to fashion a makeshift rotation out of Sam Hentges, J.C. Mejía, Cal Quantrill, Eli Morgan, and perhaps one lucky fan from the stands every fifth game.
Plesac was placed on the injured list on May 25 with a non-displaced fracture in his right thumb. He has begun throwing bullpen sessions and could return to the rotation at some point in July, barring a setback. Bieber began his stint on the injured list on June 14 with a shoulder strain. At the time the move was announced, Bieber was to rest his arm for a period of two weeks and then get re-evaluated. There is currently no exact timetable for his return.
The loss of Civale for an extended period of time is a devastating blow for Cleveland, which still only trails the division-leading White Sox by 2.5 games as of this writing. The team has won all but three of the 15 games in which he has been their starting pitcher this season. In 97.2 innings of work, Civale has recorded a 3.32 ERA and produced 1.1 WAR. With Plesac and Bieber sidelined, he has also been the only pitcher in the rotation who can go deep into games, alleviating some of the pressure on a bullpen that could buckle from the weight of their workload.
Cleveland’s back is certainly against the wall now.