Guardians cautious with Valera's wrist timetable

Civale tosses clean frame in spring debut, working towards healthy 2023

March 1st, 2023

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- exited Tuesday’s game at Goodyear Ballpark against the Royals in the second inning, dropping his bat immediately after fouling a fastball from Jordan Lyles back to the screen. After the trainers came out to check on him, he left with right wrist discomfort.

Manager Terry Francona provided an update on the Guardians’ No. 2 prospect (No. 51 overall, per MLB Pipeline) on Wednesday morning before Cleveland’s 9-6 victory over the White Sox at Camelback Ranch, which was called early in the top of the ninth due to rain.

“That was the wrist that had the surgery,” said Francona. “So, they don’t really know if that’s part of it. It’s hard to imagine that somehow not affecting it. [The team’s medical staff is] going to give him a couple of days to see how it reacts to them treating it. And then, if it’s getting better, good. If not, then they will look into maybe getting an image. But they don’t want to rush into that.”

Valera first experienced an injury in the wrist area in 2018, when he fractured the hamate bone in his right hand. It’s a common ailment that affects the bottom hand of a hitter’s swing, and one that he addressed with surgery this past offseason.

“It’s my understanding that when he got it done the first time, they didn’t take out the whole hook [of the hamate bone],” said Francona, when asked about the specifics of an injury like this. “But, I’m certainly not an expert on that. That’s why I want to give him a couple of days to see if it could settle down.”

The 22-year-old Valera is coming off of a 2022 campaign full of lessons. He dominated with a dizzying combination of power and composure while at Double-A Akron, slashing .264/.367/.470 with 15 homers and 17 doubles. After being promoted to Triple-A Columbus for the first time, his numbers dropped slightly while adjusting to the new level at age 21. Added to the 40-man roster for this season, there’s hope that the electric young talent will be primed to make an impact in Cleveland in ‘23.

Civale opens Cactus League account
’s quest to find consistency as a piece in the Guardians’ rotation began Wednesday as he made his Cactus League debut against the White Sox. Civale was efficient, forcing soft contact against the top of the Chicago lineup while facing four batters and walking one over one inning. But for him, it was less about the results and more about trying to restart his process.

“I think the first live focus was just on trying to get out and take that mentality into the game,” said Civale, talking about the transition from the back fields to a stadium mound. “It’s just getting used to the slope again. Very early in spring and games, so just getting used to everything.”

His ‘22 campaign was marred by injuries, as he was sidelined for three stints with separate issues with his wrist, glute and forearm. His truncated season -- he only threw 97 innings in 20 starts, with an ERA+ of 78 -- made it difficult for Civale to find a rhythm last year.

The right-hander said that he’s worked hard to get his body to a point where it’s ready to perform during the offseason, expending a lot of mental energy towards that side of preparation. As an important option to fill out the rotation, he hopes that the rest will fall into place.

“Health is always the number one goal for me,” said Civale. “I think that if you’re healthy, if you’re able to go out there, then the other things will take care of themselves.”

Pressure should be off for the youth
Much of Cleveland’s focus this Spring Training hinges on getting younger guys reps and opportunities -- Wednesday's starting lineup had four of the club’s Top 30 prospects, including third baseman Gabriel Arias and shortstop Jose Tena -- but Francona is adamant that the spotlight won’t be on their results.

“We tell all the young guys that this Spring isn’t going to define who you are,” Francona said. “We’d love to see them do well. … They get excited, get a couple hits and call home. But we’re just looking to get to know them and see how they carry themselves, see how they handle frustration. Like Logan Allen yesterday, he gave up four in the first, and it looked like he was beating up on himself. … I said, ‘Let’s walk through your inning.’ He actually threw the ball pretty good, just had some deeper counts and paid for it.”