How delay to season will affect the AL Central

March 19th, 2020

The world, for now, has pushed the pause button due to the global health scare associated with the coronavirus pandemic.

So we wait. We wait for better times; we wait for less uncertainty and we hope for the continuing health of our family and friends.

We also will wait for baseball season to begin. In the interim, in place of actually watching live games, we can still talk about our great sport -- without restrictions.

Let's do that now. In this week's American League Central weekly notebook, our team of beat reporters dive into how a late start to the season will impact the teams they cover:

Once baseball resumes, the delay could have some positive and negative impacts on the Tribe. The obvious is that Mike Clevinger (partial left meniscus tear) and Carlos Carrasco (right elbow inflammation) will have more than enough time to fully recover and be ready when the season gets underway. The Indians will likely have their three reliable veterans atop their rotation to start their campaign -- Shane Bieber, Clevinger, Carrasco -- while Adam Plutko, Aaron Civale and Zach Plesac compete for the final three spots.

Along with a healthy rotation, Cleveland will also get back Oscar Mercado, who sprained his left wrist while making a diving catch in the final week of camp. Depending on the timing, outfielder Tyler Naquin (torn ACL) and reliever Emmanuel Clase (upper back strain) could be closer to receiving their green lights to return to baseball activities as well. And although having the team at full strength would be a silver lining of this temporary suspension of play, there will also come some concerns. Guys like Civale, Bieber, Plutko and Plesac, who had gotten their arms as ready for the regular season as they could, will now have to halt that progression (at least against in-game, live hitters). The same goes for hitters like Franmil Reyes, who came into camp in midseason form, launching five homers in 10 Cactus League games with 11 RBIs and a 1.631 OPS. -- Mandy Bell

Strictly in baseball terms, the delay could help the Royals in terms of two major injury situations. Kansas City had planned on bringing along catcher Salvador Perez -- who missed all of 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery -- fairly cautiously during April, meaning he probably would have spent some time as the designated hitter or at first base early in the season, giving his elbow time to transition into a full season slowly. With the delay, Perez might not need such a soft transition come late April or early May. Simply more healing time will help him.

The regular-season delay likely will impact shortstop Adalberto Mondesi the most. Mondesi had shoulder surgery last October, and while his recovery was on time and there were expectations that he would have been ready for Opening Day on March 26, there was still some doubt. Mondesi experienced a “pause” in his recovery time two weeks ago due to normal body strain in his rehab, according to manager Mike Matheny, but he was expected to start his first Cactus League game last Thursday, the same day MLB suspended Spring Training and the regular season. We don’t know when team workouts will resume or when the season will begin, but the extra time should give Mondesi time to be close to 100 percent when the season officially starts. -- Jeffrey Flanagan

The impact could be vastly different across the spectrum of Tigers starters. If there was any concern about a jump in Daniel Norris’ innings this year after he spent the final two months of last season limited to three-inning starts, this delay should eliminate that. Right-hander Michael Fulmer, who’s recovering from Tommy John surgery, could potentially miss less of the season than originally planned. Detroit has consistently said that Fulmer won’t be ready until July. Fulmer has stayed in Lakeland this week to continue his rehab; he was close to throwing off a mound when camp was suspended. On the flip side, top prospects Casey Mize, Matt Manning and Tarik Skubal could spend most of the season gaining experience at Triple-A Toledo. -- Jason Beck

A healthy Byron Buxton will be a good start. The Twins' center fielder had taken his first batting practice of the spring only days before baseball was suspended. Though there was some question as to whether he would be ready for the originally scheduled Opening Day due to his recovery from labrum surgery in his left shoulder, there's now little question that Buxton should be fully healthy for the Twins' first game of the regular season, which will serve as an important boost to the offense and, more significantly, the defense.

Buxton's not the only one who should benefit from a few extra weeks off of his feet. The Twins planned to ease Marwin Gonzalez into the outfield due to an offseason surgery on his right knee, but that should now be less of an issue. That should also be the case for Jorge Polanco, who underwent a surgical debridement procedure on his right ankle in the offseason and missed the start of Grapefruit League play. And if this delay extends for long enough, the Twins might not need to turn to a rookie for their fifth rotation spot, since veteran Rich Hill's current recovery timeline from offseason left elbow surgery could have him ready for games as early as June. -- Do-Hyoung Park

White Sox
The White Sox are building something special for the 2020 season as they transition from three years of rebuilding into looking for a return to the postseason. It was something evident during one month of Spring Training through their work and their clubhouse bonding. While that positive momentum has been temporarily halted, it should not stop the White Sox plan, which is built on the club's long-term success.

Lucas Giolito, the team’s projected Opening Day starter, was sidelined through the start of camp by a strained chest muscle near his right rib cage, and Gio González dealt with left shoulder discomfort. Giolito and González both expressed no major concerns about their respective injuries, but Giolito threw one Cactus League inning in total and González didn’t get in a game, so they will be using the break to continue building their arms up to be ready for the regular season, whenever that begins. -- Scott Merkin