Allen confident, making late impression

September 3rd, 2021

KANSAS CITY -- has made two starts since getting called back up to replace an injured Triston McKenzie in the Indians rotation, and both times, late-game antics overshadowed the tremendous improvement he’s made since the start of the year.

Allen has been through a rollercoaster of a season, and he’s been open in admitting there’s no one to blame but himself. He was setting himself up to have an incredible ride in 2021, not only forcing his way into the conversation of being an option to join the Indians rotation, but making it impossible for the team to choose any arm over his. He put in the work over the winter to get his body into better physical shape. He lived in Arizona to work out at the Indians’ Spring Training facility to completely revamp his delivery and saw immediate results in camp, giving up just one run in 14 Cactus League innings.

Allen became the person to beat to earn one of the last two spots in the rotation and those efforts shifted Cal Quantrill to the bullpen to start the year. But once the regular season hit, Allen was far from the hurler he was just weeks prior. He battled with command. The lefty struggled with the ever-dreaded domino effect, watching one mistake lead to two or three or even more without having the ability to slow the game back down. So, after five attempts to straighten himself out, Allen was shipped to Triple-A Columbus. He was called up twice in emergency situations after that and was unable to get through four innings in either outing.

Something was majorly off.

“I mean just command in general,” Allen said after his first outing. “I was nit picking the zone a lot earlier in the year and it led to some really, really horrendous outings. So I went down and it was all like attack the hitters, man. If I didn’t have my fastball command that day, I would use my slider to both sides of the plate.”

He said he had laser focus on learning how to stop the bleeding when he worked himself into a jam over the last few weeks in Columbus. He didn’t get a chance to show that work off in his first outing after getting recalled, giving up one run on just one hit in six innings, flashing the type of stuff he had in Spring Training. Although Wednesday’s start in Kansas City wasn’t as flawless, it may have been the outing that showed the most growth since his started encountering these struggles.

Allen navigated traffic early in the night. He found himself in a bases-loaded, one-out jam and walked away having given up just one run on a sacrifice fly. The next frame, he had two runners on with one out and he prevented either runner from scoring. Then, he settled in once again from there.

“It was good to see,” Indians acting manager DeMarlo Hale said. “I thought we were a little sloppy behind him early in the game there, but he kind of navigated his way through it and really stayed away from a big inning. And when you can do that, I think that shows a little growth in him kind of understanding the situation he’s in. It’s good to see, for sure.”

It’s unknown what the immediate future holds for Allen, as starter Aaron Civale could be ready to return to the Indians’ rotation as early as next week. If Civale takes Allen’s spot, Allen may get sent back to Triple-A or he may move to the bullpen, but despite the outcome, the 24-year-old took advantage of the extra shot he was given before the 2021 season came to a close, proving that there’s still something left in him to invest in. And now, it’s up to him to figure out how to hold on to that success.

“My confidence in myself has been there the whole time,” Allen said. “I just needed to show it and pitch with it instead of having that confidence internally and pitching a little scared. It definitely helps. I know how good I can be. I know how good I have been. And I also know it’s a very small line from confidence to pitching scared.”