PEORIA, Ariz. -- When skimming through the Indians’ roster, every pitcher listed as a potential starter is 26 years old or younger except for Adam Plutko. With Plutko set to turn 30 in October, he’s already started to hear some jokes that he’s the “old” guy on the roster.
And with age – even at 29 -- comes some adjustments in routines, which Plutko started to implement over the offseason.
“Since I'm old now, I have really tried to revamp how I'm moving,” Plutko said. “In the weight room it's not all about strapping on a bunch of weight and getting strong. It's now about moving quicker. It's now about doing things a little bit differently. So, I'm definitely trying to move faster through my delivery.”
But the other change Plutko wanted to make this offseason was adding his slider back into his arsenal and the right-hander was able to see how it played in the Tribe’s 6-1 win over the Mariners on Tuesday afternoon at Peoria Sports Complex.
Plutko’s slider was his best putaway pitch in 2018. The following season, he switched to just throwing a cutter. But at the end of 2020, he started to throw his cutter, slider and curveball, and he wanted to continue that into ‘21.
“I watched [Shane] Bieber do it all year and guys have fits,” Plutko said. “I'm like, 'Hey man, I can throw a slider, too. Why don't I add it back?'”
The slider was added into Plutko’s pitch mix on Tuesday, and he limited the Mariners to just two hits with a walk and a strikeout in two scoreless frames.
“Adding in the slider with that mix, it was effective,” Plutko said. “You could see hitters were trying to guess at which one was the cutter, which one was the slider. Off-speed was really tight, where I wanted it to be, and I think I’m only gonna build off that one from there.”
“If I saw Bieber doing anything, I’d try to copy it. I think that’s pretty smart,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “I think Adam’s trying to give himself another weapon, especially to face left-handed hitters. … The more pitches you have, the harder it is to command all of them. Once you do that it certainly gives you a better chance. “
But what role is Plutko exactly fighting for? He served as the perfect sixth starter for the Tribe early in his career, but once he ran out of options in 2020, he struggled to fit in just one role. He made a few spot starts for the Indians last year, but he also made six appearances in relief. While he spent so many seasons trying to prove he can be a starter, Plutko said that he’s not worrying about his label this year and is focusing on how he can best be utilized for the team.
“I don’t know if it’s just a role I’ve had to grow into, if my personality is a fit for it, but I’m gonna try to get outs as much as I can, as long as I can, always,” Plutko said. “I’m never gonna try to focus on if I’m starting or relieving, because at the end of the day, it’s about getting outs.”
Gose makes first spring appearance
Anthony Gose created plenty of buzz in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down Spring Training, clocking in at 100 mph on the radar gun and showing some improvement in his control. The outfielder-turned-reliever is attempting to prove he can pitch at the big league level and he set the tone in his first outing on Tuesday, allowing two hits with one strikeout in one inning -- featuring a fastball that sat around 97 mph.
“Anyone who’s 97 [mph] from the left side with the curveball, like he has, that’s really exciting,” Plutko said. “He added in the slider again this year. For me, that pitch is gonna really play for him. I think that is really gonna be something in his repertoire that’s gonna be a good pitch. I’m excited to see his ceiling, because I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface yet.”
“You can’t just push a button and get 97 [mph],” Francona said “That’s got a chance to be pretty special.”
Giménez stays red-hot
After making quite the first impression on Sunday with a performance that got him named one of the team’s MVPs for the spring opener, Andrés Giménez picked up right where he left off with a single and a two-run homer on Tuesday. And while there was a question of whether the 22-year-old would start in the Minor Leagues rather than being the Opening Day shortstop, he’s doing his best to show exactly what he can bring to the table, even during the first few Cactus League games.
“I don’t think he’s made an out yet,” Francona said. “I’d say he’s certainly attacking the challenge of competing.”