Indians looking for bullpen boost in September

Carrasco, Otero slated to return from rehabs against Tampa Bay

August 24th, 2019

CLEVELAND -- MLB is still a year away from putting a stricter limit on September roster expansion, and, for an Indians team that’s going to need a lot of hands on deck in the bullpen, that’s a good thing. The bloated roster will help the club handle the ongoing absence of and the late-season workloads of rookie starters Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale.

Both , who is working his way back from leukemia treatment, and , who has been rehabbing a sore shoulder, are currently scheduled to join the bullpen on Sept. 1 at Tampa Bay.

“That’s kind of the plan,” manager Terry Francona said on Saturday. “And that can change. But that’s been discussed.”

Beyond the emotional element to Carrasco’s potential return to the Majors next month is the simple fact of the matter that, with Kluber’s return still such an unknown (his oblique injury will be evaluated again in the next few days to determine how close he is to resuming throwing), the Indians could sure use the man they call Cookie, be it as a piggybacker for a predominantly young starting staff or even a late-inning weapon.

Plesac, who lowered his ERA to 3.40 in his 16th start and seventh victory on Friday against the Royals, has pitched himself into the American League Rookie of the Year Award conversation and, along the way, eclipsed his innings total from 2018, which was his first full professional season. Plesac has pitched 151 innings between the Majors and Minors. Last year, he threw 144 2/3 innings between Class A and Double-A.

There can be danger in drastically increasing a young starter’s workload from one season to the next, and there can also be a fatigue factor for a pitcher. So the Indians will have to monitor both the 24-year-old Plesac and the 24-year-old Civale, who, at 102 1/3 innings between the Majors and Minors is right on the verge of his 2018 total from Double-A Akron (106 1/3).

“In my opinion, guys are at more risk when they’re really fighting through and struggling,” Francona said. “In September, you don’t have to let that happen because you have numbers.”

They won’t have quite as many numbers next year. While September rosters this year will still be able to include up to 40 players, next year MLB is going with a 26-man roster (as opposed to 25) from Opening Day through August and then a 28-man roster in September.

Lindor receives Heart and Hustle Award

Being a Players’ Weekend ambassador is one thing, but Francisco "Mr. Smile" Lindor had a larger honor on Saturday night when he was presented with the Indians’ Heart and Hustle Award by the Major League Baseball Players’ Association Alumni.

The award honors active players who demonstrate a passion for the game and best embody the values, spirit and traditions of the game. The MLBPAA formed 30 committees, comprised of alumni players with established relationships to each team, to vote on the awards, with one honoree from each club. A final winner will be selected from those 30 team winners and announced on Nov. 7, at the annual Legends for Youth Dinner in New York.

Lindor was a first-time Heart and Hustle honoree and clearly humbled by the honor, especially in a season in which he had to fight his way back from early season injuries.

“It’s unique,” Lindor said. “It’s the only award former players vote on. I pride myself on working as hard as I can on a daily basis. To be recognized for it is special.”

Minutiae of the Day

• Players’ Weekend features a relaxation of the uniform rules, but not so relaxed that pitchers are suddenly allowed to wear exposed undershirt sleeves indistinguishable from the ball. So when umpire crew chief Angel Hernandez allowed the Royals’ Kyle Zimmer to pitch with white sleeves -- to go with Kansas City’s all-white Players’ Weekend uni -- on Friday, the Indians were aghast. During the game, they called the league office to clarify that the sleeves were not allowed -- a matter that Francona called “common sense.”

Francona said the situation is now settled.

“They will not use white,” he said before Saturday’s game. “And it shouldn’t have happened, and it won’t happen again.”

• Bradley Zimmer (shoulder and oblique) was scheduled to play one last game with Double-A Akron on Saturday before progressing to Triple-A Columbus.

• The Indians’ took their annual team photo prior to Saturday’s game. They wore their traditional home whites, not the Players’ Weekend all-black uniforms.