CLEVELAND -- The Indians’ American League Wild Card Series roster is set.
With starters Triston McKenzie and Aaron Civale in the bullpen for the three-game series, the Tribe would have had three pitchers filling a similar role, had Plutko been on the roster. Plutko has made 10 appearances for the Indians this season (including four starts) and had been used for fewer than two frames in four of those outings. But Cleveland pitching coach Carl Willis already specified that both McKenzie and Civale would not be limited to just a long-relief role and could also be used in a high-leverage one-inning situation.
The decision to leave Plutko off the Wild Card roster freed up a spot to add another depth piece to the Tribe’s bench. The Indians’ offense has struggled, collectively, but their outfield group has had the most difficult time gaining any momentum. Cleveland’s outfielders ended the regular season with the worst slugging percentage (.300) and second worst batting average (.194) and on-base percentage (.270) in the Majors.
Zimmer may not be the answer to the Tribe’s offensive woes, but he’ll give the club another option off the bench, especially to pinch-run. The 27-year-old had a red-hot summer camp to earn his way onto the Opening Day roster but his bat cooled off when the season got underway, hitting .162 with a .603 OPS in 20 games before he was optioned to the alternate training site in Lake County.
Zimmer has never faced Yankees Game 1 starter Gerrit Cole in his career. In nine games against New York, Zimmer has gone 4-for-25 (.160) with two doubles, one homer and a .552 OPS.
Since the Trade Deadline, the Indians have carried three catchers on their active roster. Between Austin Hedges, Sandy León and Roberto Pérez, the Tribe’s catching squad has posted a .149 batting average with three homers in 175 combined at-bats. But the Indians decided to leave all three on their Wild Card roster to give them the opportunity to use pinch-runners more often.
“That was the thought process behind it,” Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “It gives us a lot of flexibility. We think all three are really good defensive catchers that we’re comfortable with leading the pitching staff at any point in the game. If there are moments where we can leverage those spots, if it’s a pinch-hit or a pinch-run, we know we’ll still be putting in a good defender behind him.
“We did add Bradley Zimmer today, primarily to serve in that role as a guy who can contribute off the bench, pinch-run, play defense and potentially even pinch-hit.
Here’s a look at the Indians' full Wild Card Series roster:
Pitchers (13): Shane Bieber, Carlos Carrasco, Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale, Triston McKenzie, Adam Cimber, Brad Hand, Cam Hill, James Karinchak, Phil Maton, Oliver Pérez, Cal Quantrill, Nick Wittgren
Catchers (3): Roberto Pérez, Sandy León, Austin Hedges
Infielders (5): Carlos Santana, Cesar Hernandez, José Ramírez, Francisco Lindor, Mike Freeman
Outfielders (7): Delino DeShields, Bradley Zimmer, Jordan Luplow, Oscar Mercado, Tyler Naquin, Josh Naylor, Franmil Reyes