So we are finally almost through this long 4-day stretch without Indians baseball, and for the most part it’s been all quiet on the lake front. However, the Indians did make one key roster move while most people weren’t paying attention. On Tuesday, Zach McAllister was optioned back to AAA Columbus. It was another short stay with the club after being recalled on Saturday to start in place of the injured Justin Masterson. So with McAllister back in AAA, here’s how the Tribe’s roster currently looks:
Position Players (12): Carlos Santana, Yan Gomes, Roberto Perez, Nick Swisher, Jason Kipnis, Asdrubal Cabrera, Lonnie Chisenhall, Michael Brantley, Chris Dickerson, David Murphy, Mike Aviles, Ryan Raburn
Yes, there are only 3 starting pitchers on the current roster, and no, those numbers are not wrong as the Indians do in fact have only 24 players roster. The Indians have decided to wait until tomorrow to call-up a player to take McAllister’s vacant spot, and the most likely culprit is another bullpen arm (C.C. Lee perhaps), though maybe they grab an extra bench bat (Jesus Aguilar perhaps). Either way, the Indians will be making several more roster moves in the coming days as they have a 3-day, 4-game series with the division leading Detroit Tigers this weekend. They will clearly need more than three starting pitchers. So just how might the Indians’ rotation look?
So far the only bit of information we have in that regards is that Trevor Bauer is listed as the Tribe starter for tomorrow’s game against the Tigers, and Corey Kluber is listed as the Game 1 starter for Saturday’s doubleheader. Beyond that there’s simply a whole lot of “TBD” listed. However, one can make an educated guess at how the rotation will look based on the recent roster moves implemented the Indians. Assuming that Bauer and Kluber do in fact start the first two games out of the break, here are my predictions and reasoning for who should start the following games:
Saturday July 19th, Game 2: Zach McAllister
I would not be surprised if Zach McAllister ends up being the Tribe’s Game 2 starter on Saturday. At first this may seem like I lost my mind as I just said that McAllister was optioned to Columbus on Tuesday, and per MLB rules a player must remain in the minors for a minimum of 10 days after receiving an optional assignment. This means McAllister would not be eligible to return until Friday July 25th at the earliest; however, as with most rules in baseball, there are exceptions. The exception that applies here is the new “26th man” doubleheader rule. This rule allows MLB teams to add a 26th player to their big league roster on days when there is a doubleheader. This rule supersedes the 10-day optional assignment rule, meaning even though McAllister was optioned just two days ago, he could be recalled for Saturday. After his start he’d be sent right back to Columbus.
The other option is to recall Danny Salazar to make the start on Saturday. He’s been up and down in his stint in AAA. Take his most recent start for example. He went 6 innings allowing only 1 run while striking out 9; however, he also walked 6. He still is not back to where he was last year, and he could probably benefit from more time in AAA before getting recalled. Plus, even if he was ready, calling him up and not McAllister presents a few other issues, which I’ll get too later…
Sunday July 20th: Josh Tomlin
Assuming McAllister gets the other start on Saturday, the easy, and really most logical, choice for Sunday’s start is Josh Tomlin. The Indians could look at Salazar here as well, but as I just mentioned he probably isn’t ready to return quite yet. And what about T.J. House you ask? Well he was optioned to the minors on Friday July 11th, which means he is not eligible to come back until Monday July 21st, and thus is ineligible to make this start. Again, this choice seems rather simple and straightforward.
Monday July 21st: T.J. House
As I just mentioned, this is the first day House is eligible to return, and I’d be shocked if this isn’t who pitches this day. Why? Well House actually pitched for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers yesterday. Yes, he was sent to Short-Season A-ball to make a start. By pitching yesterday, House would be in line to pitch on his normal rest the day he’s eligible to return to the big leagues. You don’t send a starting pitcher of his caliber to short-season A-ball for any other reason. Simple logic suggests this is House’s start.
Tuesday July 22nd: Danny Salazar
Remember when I said that starting Salazar during Game 2 of the doubleheader could present some future issues? Well here’s what I was referring too. If Salazar started on Saturday instead of McAllister, he would be unavailable for Tuesday’s start. No, there is no rule preventing him from pitching that day; however, he’d be pitching on 2-days rest, which is just not going to happen obviously. And if Salazar is unavailable to start on Tuesday, who’s left?
McAllister is not an option due to the 10-day optional assignment rule. Justin Materson is not eligible to come off the DL until Wednesday July 23rd so he too is not an option. Trevor Bauer could technically start, but he would be going on just 3-days rest. While Bauer is probably more than capable of pitching on short rest, the Indians have already done this twice this year with both starters ending up on the DL (McAllister and Masterson). I do not believe the Indians will risk this a third time this season, though assuming can always be a slippery slope. In any case, Salazar simply makes the most sense here.
Wednesday July 23rd: Justin Masterson
This if the first day Masterson is eligible to come off the DL; however, just because Masterson is eligible to come off the DL doesn’t mean he will. Not a lot has been said about his recovery so there’s a chance he’ll need more time, which would leave the Tribe still looking for a starter. The Indians easily could just turn to Bauer here though, as he’d be on normal rest. However, I’m sticking with my optimistic pick and putting Masterson in this spot until I hear otherwise. Salazar could easily be optioned down after his start the day before opening a spot for Masterson.
The Wild Card Option: Carlos Carrasco
I wanted to make mention of this potential “wild card” option the Tribe could turn to. Carlos Carrasco began the year as a starter, and while he’s found a nice home in the bullpen, he could be asked to make a spot start in the coming days. He could be used for either Game 2 of Saturday’s doubleheader or on Tuesday. Either way it’d likely only be a one start situation, so maybe the Tribe would be comfortable allowing him this opportunity.
No matter what route the Indians go with the rotatoin, there should be lots of roster decisions still to come, and very big decisions at that. This 4-game series versus Detroit could set the tone for how the 2nd half plays out for the Tribe, and they can’t afford to fall any further behind the 1st place Tigers. Big question heading into next week as well is the health of Justin Masterson. Can he come off the DL when he’s first eligible? And maybe more importantly, will he be effective if he does? We should know the answers to these questions soon. Until then, let the speculation begin on just how the Indians will end up constructing this rotation in the coming week.