And then there were none.
After meeting with Dr. Thomas Graham on Wednesday, Aaron Civale was diagnosed with a sprain in his middle finger on his right hand. He’s expected to be shut down from throwing for one to two weeks and will likely miss four to five weeks of game activity.
On Thursday, Civale was placed on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to June 22, and right-hander Justin Garza was called up in a corresponding move.
“I don’t know if you ever call it good news when somebody’s gonna miss time, but for what it could’ve been, I think it’s probably a little bit of a relief,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “The one thing I know with this injury is you got to get rid of it before you start letting him throw or it can lead to other issues.”
Civale was removed from his start on Monday against the Cubs in the fifth inning after feeling discomfort in his finger for his final two pitches. The Indians were sure the injury did not occur due to him swinging a bat.
Now, the Indians are officially without any of the five starters who opened the year in their rotation. Not only was Civale the only remaining starter left in the rotation, he was also, arguably, Cleveland’s most consistent option, having led the Majors in innings pitched while he was healthy. So where does the team go from here?
Cleveland has J.C. Mejía, Cal Quantrill, Sam Hentges and Eli Morgan to fill the previous holes in the rotation, but now another replacement arm will be needed. Morgan was slated to pitch in the series finale in Minnesota on Sunday, but he will now be considered to pitch on Monday instead. Regardless, that fifth spot will need to be filled.
Francona has explained he’s not expecting to use any of these guys on short rest again, which means the team can either turn to its depth once again, try to work in a bullpen game in a stretch when the club is desperately trying to avoid overtaxing its relief corps or begin looking externally.
The Indians could try to roll the dice on Triston McKenzie once more, but he probably needs more time in Triple-A Columbus. Logan Allen (assuming he stays healthy) could be an option and Scott Moss is another option in Columbus, but he hasn’t pitched since June 11.
It would be difficult to turn to an opener when the bullpen has already taken on extra work throughout the current stretch of 30 games in 31 days, but the Indians did call up Garza, who has been working in a long-relief role in Triple-A, on Thursday. He could be used as an opener (or at least someone who eats up a handful of innings) on Sunday if the Indians don’t need him before then.
“He was really doing a good job,” Francona said of Garza in Columbus. “I mean, getting everybody out, was throwing mid-90s, got a cutter, got all the pitches. Not the biggest physical guy but can field his position, quick to the plate. He put himself in a position where you tell guys, ‘Hey man, put yourself in a position, you never know what’s gonna happen.’ Well, it happened.”
Zach Plesac (right thumb) has made solid progress with his bullpens, and he could begin a rehab assignment in the next few weeks to help out the rotation. But it seems unlikely his return would be before the All-Star break.