Inbox: How worried is the Tribe about Hand?

September 12th, 2019

CLEVELAND -- The Indians entered their off-day on Thursday four games behind the Twins in the division standings and a half-game behind the A’s for the second American League Wild Card spot.

There are 15 games remaining on the Tribe’s regular-season schedule, including three against Minnesota this weekend. But as the countdown begins, the amount of questions surrounding the team continues to rise. Let’s take a look at a few in this week’s Inbox.

The concern has been there since before the team sent back to Cleveland during its series against the Angels in California to get MRI testing done on his throwing arm. The closer started the year as hot as can be, recording 23 consecutive saves. But since his first blown save, on June 25, his numbers have not been the same.

Through June 24: 34 1/3 innings, 1.05 ERA, .161 opponents' batting average, 50 strikeouts, eight walks, one homer, 33.2 percent whiff rate, zero blown saves

After June 24: 22 innings, 6.95 ERA, .347 opponents' batting average, 31 strikeouts, 10 walks, five homers, 27.6 percent whiff rate, five blown saves

Over his last few outings, his velocity dropped more than a full mile per hour, which explains his arm fatigue. However, the Tribe received a positive report after he went through his testing. How he responds to the treatment he’s receiving and how the Indians build him back up will determine just how creative they will need to get in the ninth inning. (They had a nice warmup round with that on Wednesday, using , and to piece together the final three outs against the Angels.)

Does this open the door for James Karinchak or Kyle Nelson? It appears so -- at least for Karinchak. According to a report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the Indians will be calling up Karinchak prior to the series against the Twins on Friday. This does not mean Karinchak would assume the ninth-inning duties. It’s unlikely he’d take on high-leverage situations with no big league experience, but he at least gives the club a depth piece to work in if it needs to bump some other arms to the closing role, even if it’s temporary.

The two big names that seem to get fans most excited are Karinchak and outfielder Daniel Johnson. They could help the Tribe reach the playoffs over the final two weeks of the season. At the very least, Johnson could provide some speed as a pinch-runner. Bradley Zimmer could be another who gets the call.

was placed on the 10-day injured list on Aug. 10 with a right shoulder impingement. He was then transferred to the 60-day IL, which means the earliest he could be activated would be the second week of October, so don’t expect to see him again this year.

As far as a Wild Card Game starter, if that’s what the season comes down to, the best guess at this point would be . It’s hard to ignore the 2.00 ERA he’s posted since the beginning of July.

Jose Ramirez, who fractured his hamate bone on Aug. 24, still has the same five-to-seven-week time frame. The earliest he could return would be Oct. 1 (two days before the Wild Card Game); the latest date he was given is Oct. 15.

“I mean, he’s trying, but I don’t know how you make bone heal faster by trying,” manager Terry Francona said earlier this week. “Every day, he’s in early. … But it’s got to heal. If there’s one thing we have going for us, he’s a pretty tough kid, which we know."

Unfortunately for the Indians, both options seem to be a stretch. fractured his right forearm on May 1 and was nearing his return to the rotation when he injured his oblique in a rehab start on Aug. 18. With two weeks remaining in the regular season, he still hasn’t been cleared to begin land-based activities, limited to working out in the water.

Kluber would have to start with playing catch, stretch out into long-toss, begin throwing bullpen sessions and then get into a simulated game of some form before being able to rejoin the Tribe. It seems unlikely he could get all of that done before the end of the season.

The 1993 Giants hold that record in the Divisional Era (since 1969), winning 103 games without making the playoffs. As of the end of play on Wednesday, the Indians are on pace for 94 victories. From 1969 to 2018, there have been 18 teams with at least 94 wins that missed the postseason. In 2005 the Tribe won its highest number of games without getting into the playoffs, with 93.