CLEVELAND -- The Indians’ starting rotation has carried them through the first three weeks of the season, as the offense continues to search for some momentum. But now, the club will be without two of its starting pitchers over the next few days due to violation of team protocols.
After the team sent Zach Plesac home early from Chicago on Sunday because he went out with friends on Saturday night, the club learned that Mike Clevinger also broke team rules and will now miss his start against the Cubs on Tuesday. Prior to the game, the Tribe placed both right-handers on the restricted list, replacing them with outfielder Tyler Naquin and lefty Logan Allen on the 28-man roster.
“This one kind of hurts,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “And we talked about it as a team even today. We’ll deal with it like we always do. We care about each other. It doesn’t mean you don’t get disappointed with each other or even mad at each other sometimes. But what I care about is making it better. Not being vindictive, just trying to figure out how do we make this better so it doesn’t happen again. The players will have a lot to say about this. Taking ownership of what we’re doing is really important.”
Both Clevinger and Plesac will self-quarantine for three days and will begin undergoing precautionary COVID-19 testing on Wednesday. The two can be activated off the restricted list at any time and they will receive pay and service time while away from the team. Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said he did not want to divulge whether the two hurlers will face any further penalties for their actions.
“The actions we took were not mandated by anyone,” Antonetti said. “They were choices we made organizationally. We have no reason to believe either Zach or Mike were around a COVID-positive individual. So there are no additional actions that are warranted or required.
"As I said, we chose to take the actions that we did because while we don't know whether they were exposed to a COVID-positive individual, we felt their behaviors did violate our code of conduct and agreed upon protocols.”
The Indians understand that the two going out in Chicago does not mean that they contracted the virus, but they were proactive in sending Plesac home via car immediately Sunday morning when they received the news. However, they did not learn that Clevinger was also out Saturday night until Monday afternoon, and the righty boarded the plane with the rest of his squad -- including Carlos Carrasco, who's considered "high-risk" after his battle with leukemia last year -- Sunday night.
“I have had a chance to talk to Carlos and a number of other members of our team,” Antonetti said. “I'll keep the specifics of those conversations private, but I shared with them the same thing I'm sharing with you … these protocols are important, they're there for a reason and [we'll] try to do the best we can to keep each other safe and healthy. And that as an organization we will continue to prioritize the health and wellness of our staff and players and take actions that are consistent with that.”
Later Tuesday evening, Clevinger released the following statement:
“There is an implicit trust that each of my teammates share as we navigate a season during this pandemic, and I broke that trust,” Clevinger said. “In Chicago, I made the mistake of violating the protocols but the biggest mistake of all was not immediately coming clean to my teammates. I owe them better. I now realize that by even exposing myself to just one person more than necessary, I am putting myself, my teammates, the guys I compete against, the umpires, the staff, the Indians organization as well as the game that I love at risk.
“There is no excuse for my actions, and I can only take responsibility and learn from my mistakes. Moving forward, I promise my actions will reflect a full understanding of the protocols set in place while I continue my passion for competing for the incredible Indians’ fans and the city that I adore.”
Logistically, Clevinger and Plesac would need just one negative COVID-19 test to be allowed to rejoin the Tribe; however, the club is still debating whether they’d want them to be tested again on Thursday to be extra cautious.
“What I would say is [this] reinforces for us as an organization that the health and wellness of our players and staff is of paramount importance to us,” Antonetti said, “and we’ll continue to let that guiding principle govern how we act moving forward. I do think it’s important to note, the vast majority of our group have done a tremendous job and have embraced the responsibilities not only to themselves, but to each other, to keep everybody healthy.”
The Tribe held a team meeting prior to Tuesday’s contest to go over what transpired over the weekend. Francisco Lindor said that he thought it was best for him to just listen to understand the situation before saying anything in front of the team, but the shortstop has already begun reflecting on his thoughts.
“At the end of the day, we have to sit and look ourselves in the mirror,” Lindor said. “And it’s not about the person you see in the mirror, it’s about who’s behind you, the other people. … We’re in a time right now with COVID-19, with racism, everything. This is a time to be selfless. This is when we have to sit back and understand this is not about one person specifically. It’s about everybody. You have to go out there and understand that it’s about your neighbor and your neighbor’s neighbors.”