CLEVELAND -- The Indians struggled to contain their excitement when they first acquired reliever Emmanuel Clase, the centerpiece in the trade that shipped Corey Kluber to Texas. But now, the club and the 21-year-old have a bit of a hurdle to overcome.
Clase received an 80-game suspension after testing positive for Boldenone, a performance-enhancing substance, Major League Baseball announced on Friday. The suspension does not begin until the 2020 season is officially underway.
“We were disappointed to learn of today’s suspension of Emmanuel Clase for violating Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program,” the Indians said in a brief statement. “We fully support Major League Baseball’s policy and its efforts to eliminate performance-enhancing drugs from our game. We have been in contact with Emmanuel, and we will welcome him back after the discipline has been served. Per the protocol outlined by Major League Baseball's Collective Bargaining Agreement, we will not comment further on the circumstances surrounding this announcement."
The Kluber trade on Dec. 17 made plenty of Indians fans uneasy. The two-time American League Cy Young Award winner was sent to the Rangers in exchange for Clase and outfielder Delino DeShields. Because the center fielder was projecting to be a depth piece as a fourth outfielder, Clase was the true moving force behind parting ways with Kluber. Now the Tribe will be without the reliever for 80 games this year, and it won't be any easier for fans to forget about losing one of the best arms that has ever come through Cleveland.
According to MLB Pipeline, Clase is the Tribe’s No. 15 prospect. The hard-throwing righty entered Spring Training with high expectations, considering his résumé sported a triple-digit cutter. It was early in spring when the team saw Clase pitch, but it was hard for the club to not be excited about the prospect’s future. After Indians manager Terry Francona watched his first bullpen, he said, “He was throwing 100-mph bowling balls.”
Clase had some big league experience in Texas by getting 21 games under his belt. Even though the Indians were reluctant to guarantee that the 21-year-old would earn a spot on the Opening Day roster at the beginning of camp, it seemed likely he would be in the Tribe’s bullpen to start the year. But Clase didn’t get the chance to pitch in a Cactus League game during Spring Training, as he suffered an upper back strain that was expected to keep him out at least through May.
The pause in play due to the coronavirus pandemic gave Clase a chance of getting himself as close to full strength as possible before the season began. Even if he was going to have to miss a few games, he and James Karinchak were expected to give the Tribe a glimpse into the future of how the hard-throwing duo could eventually lock down the back end of the ‘pen. Now, whenever the season does begin, Karinchak’s role could become even more prominent in the bullpen that doesn’t have a tremendous amount of depth.