Inbox: Who would Tribe tab for WC Game?

Beat reporter Mandy Bell answers questions from Cleveland fans

September 23rd, 2019

CLEVELAND -- The Indians have six games left to secure an American League Wild Card spot. What happens if they clinch a postseason berth? Let’s take a look at some of your questions in this week’s Inbox.

Who would start the AL Wild Card Game on Wednesday, Oct. 2?
-- JC, Columbus, Ohio

The answer to this question largely depends on when the Indians clinch. If the starting rotation stays the same, Mike Clevinger is currently on schedule to pitch in Sunday’s season finale against the Nationals in Washington, D.C. If an AL Wild Card berth comes down to that last game, the Indians will likely stick to that schedule, using Clevinger to help secure that spot and leaving Shane Bieber for the AL Wild Card Game.

However, if the Tribe is able to clinch a day or two early, it wouldn’t be surprising if Clevinger is pushed back to pitch the AL Wild Card Game instead. The Indians can’t really go wrong with either Bieber, who’s logged a 3.23 ERA with 252 strikeouts in 208 2/3 innings this year, or Clevinger, who missed two months of the season with an upper back strain. But it’s hard to ignore the success that Clevinger has had in his past 15 starts, owning a 1.89 ERA with 124 K’s in 95 innings since July 3.

This is unlikely, but what happens in the event of a three-way tie for the AL Wild Card?
-- Nick K., Painesville, Ohio

If there’s a three-way tie, two teams will play each other (for example, let’s say the A’s and Indians) and the loser of that game would then take on the third club (the Rays). The winners of both of those matchups would then go head-to-head in the AL Wild Card Game.

For more on these chaotic scenarios, check out this story by’s Anthony Castrovince.

Regarding a potential playoff roster, do the Indians keep both Ryan Flaherty and Yu Chang considering Jose Ramírez's recent injury? Do Bradley Zimmer or Jake Bauers have a legitimate chance of making the playoff roster?
-- Leonard F., Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio

Manager Terry Francona said that one of the first questions the Indians asked Ramírez’s doctors was if rushing him back would cause a concern for him to re-injure the hamate bone in his right hand. Because the medical team seemed confident that Cleveland does not have to worry about any setbacks, it doesn’t seem likely that the Tribe would eat up another roster spot to carry both Chang and Flaherty.

In this week’s projection of a potential Indians’ ALDS roster, Chang is listed as the utility infielder; however, it will come down to who the Tribe feels more confident in to back up second base. Chang has had plenty of reps there at Triple-A Columbus this season, but he has yet to play there in the big leagues.

As far as Zimmer and Bauers are concerned, it seems unlikely that Zimmer -- who missed the year recovering from right shoulder surgery and two left oblique setbacks -- would make a playoff roster, especially since he’s hardly played in any games since he was called up this month. Bauers has a better chance, simply because he can back up both first base and left field if they’d need him.

If the Indians make the postseason, could Carlos Carrasco become a reliable starter?
-- Tom, Akron, Ohio

This is a situation where if it’s not broken, the Indians certainly won’t be fixing it. The Tribe knew it needed Carrasco in order to make a run in the final month of the season, and he’s become the weapon it was hoping he’d be. Having someone in the bullpen that can pitch multiple dominant innings the way he was able to on Sunday night is anything but a bad thing. When Carrasco was starting to make his way back from his leukemia diagnosis, he and the coaching staff knew that stretching himself out to become a starter again this year would be too much, and that will not be changing.

Will Brad Hand return to the closer role, or will that be James Karinchak, with Hand as the setup guy?
-- Jeffrey W., New York

From what Francona said on Sunday, it seems like Hand will transition back to the closer role.

“We’ll see how he bounces back [from his first outing],” Francona said. “If he does bounce back, he will be put back into a leverage situation. Again, if there’s three lefties in the eighth, he could very well do that.”

Is there any chance Ramírez plays second base when he comes back, with Chang and/or Mike Freeman at third? Or will Chang play some second when Ramirez returns?
-- Matt B., Cuyahoga Falls

Francona said that Ramírez will not be an option at second base when he returns on Tuesday. Freeman will likely handle the majority of the playing time at second and Chang, Flaherty and Andrew Velazquez will also be options through this final week.

If the Indians make it to the postseason, what’s the likelihood that Corey Kluber is able to come back and help the Tribe in any role? Do they plan on getting him in live-game action during this last week of the regular season?
-- Andy M., Sandusky, Ohio

Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said this: “Obviously the longer we play, the higher the likelihood that he’ll be able to return and contribute.”

Kluber (fractured right forearm, left oblique strain) has been stretched out to 120 feet in his long-toss routine, but he hasn’t thrown his first bullpen session just yet. There are just too many boxes left to check off for him to get back into games this week. If the team can advance deeper into October, he could have a chance of rejoining them at that point.

Does the front office view Franmil Reyes as strictly a designated hitter? If so, with Jordan Luplow, Greg Allen, Zimmer, Oscar Mercado, Reyes and Daniel Johnson, is a Yasiel Puig return out of the question, or would they seek a replacement?
-- @TPrevoJr

The front office does not view Reyes as strictly a DH. The team wants to work with him on his defense heading into next year so that he can do more than just the one role, especially since he’s only 24. But, yes, because of that (and the high praise that Johnson has gotten), it’s very unlikely that they’d try to re-sign Puig, who would cost way more than their two right-field options, Reyes and Johnson (and possibly Tyler Naquin), combined.