According to Ryan Lewis of the Akron Beacon Journal, Triston McKenzie has been cleared to resume throwing baseball later this week after being examined by doctors on Sunday.
This is obviously great news for McKenzie and the Guardians, who have sorely missed him since it was announced he would miss several weeks with a major teres muscle injury following his final spring training start.
McKenzie was initially pulled from that game with what he later described as a “weird sensation” in his shoulder and triceps area. The initial diagnosis of a teres major muscle strain, which was made public on March 27, indicated that he would be shut down for two weeks and re-evaluated. No timetable is set yet for his return to the rotation, but he cleared the first hurdle by getting the green light to start throwing again.
Guardians pitchers have filled in nicely for McKenzie — for the most part — but putting him back in the rotation behind ace Shane Bieber will allow everyone else to move down to more natural places in an MLB rotation. The consistency of two great pitchers as opposed to one and a bunch of question marks will go a long way toward getting the Guardians back to the top of pitching leaderboards.
The other interesting thing will be who McKenzie actually bumps out of the rotation when he returns. Bieber, McKenzie, and maybe Cal Quantrill feel like the only sure things to stick once he returns, and it could end up being a three-way battle between Aaron Civale, Zach Plesac, and Hunter Gaddis for the last two spots. All three have had one good start and one bad start to the season, so if there is an open battle, it’ll be decided based on what they do between now and when McKenzie returns.
Seeing as Gaddis was slated to start out of the bullpen before McKenzie’s injury, he figures to be at the bottom of the totem pole. But he did show some real promise in his last outing, holding the A’s to one hit over six innings. There is also the looming spectre of Tanner Bibee, Gavin Williams, and Logan Allen on the horizon once the Guardians get a longer look at everybody.
Looking ahead in an effort to make lemonade out of lemons, it will also be good to see how Bo Naylor handles McKenzie’s curveballs if he gets a couple of starts in Triple-A over the course of his rehab. That’s still a ways away, but if Naylor is the catcher of the future, he’ll need to corral those pitches better than his major-league counterparts have done so far. And you don’t get a much better test than McKenzie.