CLEVELAND -- We all know how baseball rules work: Three strikes, you’re out. Unfortunately for Logan Allen, the same guidelines were followed to determine his immediate future with the Indians.
After an impressive spring and two decent five-inning outings to start the 2021 season, Allen hasn’t been able to make it longer than 2 1/3 frames in any of his last three starts. This rough stretch was punctuated by his worst performance of the season in the Indians’ 10-2 loss to the Twins on Wednesday afternoon at Progressive Field.
Following the game, Cleveland informed Allen that he was being optioned to the alternate training site.
“I’m doing a disservice to my teammates doing this multiple times in a row,” Allen said. “It’s gonna happen in baseball; this was all on me today. We had a really good opportunity to sweep them, and I didn’t really give us a chance to get hot or really even stay in the game, for the most part.”
It took just two pitches for Allen to find himself in a hole, as Byron Buxton homered on the second pitch of the game, and the wheels immediately fell off. Allen gave up a homer to Josh Donaldson in the next at-bat, walked Nelson Cruz and permitted a long ball to Jorge Polanco; Allen became just the 10th pitcher in Cleveland history to allow three homers in the first inning. The last time it happened was on May 1, 2007, when CC Sabathia gave up three to the Blue Jays. It was the first time since April 15, 2016, that the club allowed three blasts in any inning (Cody Anderson in the fifth against the Mets).
“I'd say it starts with fastball location,” manager Terry Francona said. “The first [homer] of the game, I think [it] surprised him that it blew out. ... And then he mislocated.”
Allen's performance led to a tough conversation after the game. After Francona met with local media via Zoom, there was a long delay before Allen joined the chat. It was during that delay that Allen received the news that he was being sent to the alternate training site.
“They’re not upset. They’re not angry or anything like that,” Allen said of his conversation with the club. “It’s more of they saw the same guy that I was in Spring Training, and lately some things have been off. They still have the confidence in me, and I still have the confidence in myself.”
Allen pitched his way into the rotation this spring after giving up just one run in 14 Cactus League innings. But Francona is always quick to remind everyone each year that Spring Training stats are, for the most part, meaningless. And so far this season, Allen has proven why that statement rings true. Over his last three starts, he’s pitched to a whopping 20.65 ERA.
“Baseball’s not easy, and I had this ability in Spring Training to take my delivery and throw all four of my pitches with the aggression and put it where I want it,” Allen said. “Lately, it’s been all aggression, and the command has been spotty. I’m putting myself in bad counts.”
So what does this mean for the rotation?
The Indians have options in Cal Quantrill and Sam Hentges at the big league level to replace Allen in the starting five. Quantrill was a favorite to break camp in the rotation, but after a rocky spring, he started the year in the bullpen. In eight relief appearances (12 1/3 innings), he has a 2.92 ERA with seven walks and five strikeouts.
Francona has already specified that he wants Hentges to stay stretched out as a starter. That likely means he’ll either join the rotation or be sent to the alternate training site so he doesn’t get pigeonholed into a relief role with limited innings. Hentges made his debut on April 20 and has just three big league appearances, including his outing on Wednesday, in which he allowed three runs (two earned) on five hits in three innings.
Aside from Quantrill and Hentges, Cleveland has just one starter -- Jean Carlos Mejía -- at the alternate training site who is already on the 40-man roster. Scott Moss was never added; when he was optioned to Minor League camp this spring, Francona said that he had some tightness in his neck that he was working through, which could be why the organization decided to leave him in Arizona for April.
In the meantime, Allen will head to Columbus to figure out how to become the guy he was in Spring Training.
“Lately, I’ve been having a hard time getting back to that delivery that made me so successful,” Allen said. “So it’s just taking the routine I’ve done, increasing the volume just a touch to get back to where I was, and once that clicks again and I’m back where I need to be, that’s game over.”