Plesac still 'trying to find that groove' post-IL

August 19th, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS -- When Indians starter last toed the rubber in Detroit on Friday, it appeared as though he rediscovered the rhythm he was in over the last two seasons, working into the eighth inning while allowing just two runs. But on Wednesday afternoon, he demonstrated that he’s not over the post-injured-list struggles just yet.

Plesac allowed six runs (five earned) on six hits with two walks, two hit batters and two strikeouts through 4 2/3 innings, which played an enormous role in the Indians’ 8-7 11-inning loss to the Twins in the series finale at Target Field. Once again, Jorge Polanco was the hero with the walk-off single off Justin Garza, just two days after he delivered a walk-off double vs. Cleveland earlier in the series.

It was clear that Plesac didn’t have his best command early in the game, but he was able to work around it, holding Minnesota to two runs through four innings. He made it two outs into the fifth inning before the wheels fell off the cart, as the Twins put up five runs before the last out was made. Four of those runs were charged to Plesac and one belonged to Alex Young, who relieved Plesac after an RBI single from Luis Arraez and a two-run double by Miguel Sanó knocked the starter out.

“We were a pitch away,” Plesac said. “For the most part, heaters executed down and away to [Arraez], it froze him. So, I think that was the right pitch. If I would’ve executed that pitch down and away, we could’ve been in a different spot in this ballgame.”

It was a relief for the Indians to get one of their main starters back in their rotation when Plesac was cleared to pitch at the big league level on a limited pitch count on July 8. After the All-Star break, that pitch count jumped into the 80s before he was given the green light to go however long he needed to. However, even after the buildup, Plesac hasn’t quite found his regular groove.

Entering his 7 2/3-inning performance against Detroit, he had posted a 6.16 ERA with eight homers allowed in 30 2/3 frames in six starts since his return from the injured list (thumb fracture). And after giving up a mammoth 475-foot homer by Sanó, Plesac has now given up a long ball in each of his last 11 starts -- the longest active streak in the Majors. The only longer streak in team history belongs to Josh Tomlin, who allowed at least one home run in 15 straight starts in 2016.

“When you think about it, he had a pretty easy fourth inning,” Indians acting manager DeMarlo Hale said. “He went from 40 to 49 [pitches in the] inning. I thought that was pretty good. The fifth got away from him. The big blow was the 0-2 pitch to Sanó."

Not only did Plesac’s struggles since returning from the injured list continue, but the right-hander’s difficulties navigating the Twins’ lineup still exist. In four career starts against Minnesota, Plesac is 0-2 with a 6.26 ERA.

“My pitches feel good,” Plesac said. “I'm trying to find that groove. I feel good with everything, and I'm gonna continue to just keep executing and make sure I get those pitches down and think about the counts that if I gave up a hit when I was ahead, and just continue to see how that lineup plays all the way around, second or third time facing them, in different situations, what they're looking for, and continue to learn about them. Next time, I'm confident when I go up and face them, I know what to do.”

Plesac hasn’t been the razor-sharp pitcher he was in 2019 and ‘20, but the silver lining is that the 26-year-old thinks he’s on the right path to getting back into form.

“I think at times I've pitched really well, it just came down to a couple pitches, a couple situations where things kind of break open,” Plesac said. “I've been feeling really good with each pitch lately. Coming down, obviously, to executing those pitches. As you come back and you start playing and you play for days consecutively, weeks add up to months, you find your routine that works and your consistency with feels and you know exactly how things will be set up that day to make sure you're on point to be consistent through the season. Moving forward, I'm really just trying to execute pitches. … We're in games, just gonna have to close them out.”