Notes: Allen fits dual role; Mercado to debut

June 28th, 2021

CLEVELAND -- He wasn’t needed in Minnesota after all, but won’t go much longer without toeing the rubber for the Indians. The only thing left to determine will be whether it’ll be out of the bullpen or as a starter.

Allen was recalled along with outfielder prior to Monday’s series opener against the Tigers at Progressive Field. With Eli Morgan starting on Monday, J.C. Mejía slated for Tuesday and Cal Quantrill expected to start Wednesday, the Indians need to figure out who will take the hill on Thursday. They’re hoping Allen will fill that vacancy.

“He's going to be in the bullpen tonight,” manager Terry Francona said Monday afternoon. “The hope is we don't need him and he can start on Thursday. We just, with the way our pitching's been, we've asked guys to be a little flexible, probably more so than the past. Hopefully we get to a point, maybe tomorrow, where he can throw a side and he's not pitching in a game. But we just want to protect ourselves, too.”

Assuming the Indians don’t need someone to fill multiple innings before then, Allen will make his first start since being sent down to Triple-A after getting off to a rough start to the season. He had two decent five-inning starts to open the year before stumbling through his final three. Allen was supposed to work through his issues at Columbus, but he had limited time to make any adjustments. He went about three weeks without making a start due to elbow issues and has made just two starts in Triple-A since then with very little time to get back into a groove.

But the Indians didn’t have many other options.

“The best thing about it is he feels good,” Francona said. “When he got down there and got stretched out a little bit, that elbow started bothering him. And by his own admission, he feels really good. He hasn’t had a ton of repetitions. In a perfect world, he could stay there and pitch and [we] call him up when he’s on a run. We’re far from a perfect world.”

Mercado to make 2021 debut

Mercado has been through his fair share of offensive struggles. After a strong rookie campaign in 2019, he limped through a shortened 2020 season, hitting just .128 with a .348 OPS in 36 games. He was optimistic heading into the offseason that his plans to make specific adjustments would pay off, but his spring campaign didn’t reflect those efforts, which resulted in him opening the season in the Minors.

“You know, he had a really tough spring -- and on the heels of a really tough, abbreviated year last year,” Francona said. “So we were asking him to make some adjustments. And he's still, quite frankly, making those adjustments. So doing it here isn't very easy. But again, we value that he can play all three outfield spots, and hopefully, he can still continue with working on what he's been working on.”

In 45 games in Columbus this year, Mercado hit .216 with a .718 OPS, five homers, 23 RBIs, 13 doubles, 32 strikeouts and 23 walks.

“He really started out slow, like a lot of guys did there,” Francona said. “Last couple, three weeks, he had been a lot better controlling the strike zone. His batting average probably isn't what he wanted it to be, but he's not striking out a bunch. Been really playing good outfield -- left, right and center -- which certainly help us.”