After 'growing experience,' Plesac dazzles

Righty apologizes for violating team protocols last month

September 2nd, 2020

was arguably the Tribe’s second best starter over the first two weeks of the 2020 season. The rest of the pitching staff picked up his slack when the 25-year-old was optioned to the alternate training site for violating team protocols, but Plesac proved on Tuesday just how much his presence was missed.

Even with 23 days between starts, Plesac picked up right where he left off, giving up one run on four hits with six strikeouts in the Indians’ 10-1 victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.

“He looked pretty good,” Indians temporary manager Sandy Alomar Jr said. “I can't believe after [over three] weeks he came in and his command was completely there. The changeup was great. He executed his pitches. He was good. It was like he never left.”

After a first-inning single from Jorge Soler, Plesac retired the next 12 batters before giving up back-to-back singles to Nicky Lopez and Bubba Starling in the fifth. All four hits off the right-hander were on his heater, with the last one coming on a one-out blast by Hunter Dozier in the sixth. But the solo homer didn’t cause too much damage, as the Tribe’s offense erupted for eight runs, backed by a five-hit night from .

“I definitely had the butterflies,” Plesac said of his return. “The nerves were there. I really just wanted to come in and get these guys a chance to win and do my part and commit to each pitch and execute.”

Plesac came two outs away from his third shutout of the year, but instead, he walked off the rubber watching his ERA tick up marginally, from 1.29 to 1.33, while bringing his season strikeout total to 30, with just two walks in 27 innings.

“I thought he commanded all his pitches tonight,” Indians catcher Roberto Pérez said. “He hasn't been here in [three] weeks, and he didn't look rusty. He seems like he went down there and got his things straightened out and he was able to come back and he didn't take it for granted. He battled tonight.”

The Indians optioned reliever Cam Hill on Tuesday to the alternate training site at Lake County in order to make room for Plesac on the 28-man roster. Plesac spent the past 18 days in Lake County after a four-day stint on the restricted list. He rejoined his teammates in Kansas City for the first time since the collective group held a team meeting in Detroit on Aug. 14 to hash out feelings about his and former teammate Mike Clevinger’s decisions to break the team’s COVID-19 guidelines after Plesac's last start in Chicago on Aug. 8.

“Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot that’s happened that they can see that I’m going to take my actions seriously and move forward in a direction where I put the team first definitely better than I did before," Plesac said. "Just a learning experience and a growing experience.”

When Plesac was caught returning to the team hotel in Chicago after curfew, the Tribe sent him home via car service the next morning to eliminate any potential risk of COVID-19 exposure in the clubhouse. Four days later, Plesac posted a video on Instagram explaining his side of the story, which ended up ruffling more feathers.

“First, I want to say, to anybody who felt criticized by the video I posted, I apologize,” Plesac said. “I don’t think my words came out as clear as I would like them to. ... I owed my teammates and the staff the apology, and I gave that to them the next morning. That was my apology. If I could go back and redo the video, I would’ve chosen my words better.”

Clevinger made his first start after being optioned last Wednesday and was traded to the Padres on Monday. But when he first returned to the Tribe, Clevinger said he made sure to reel in his usual energy to prove that he didn’t want to be any form of distraction.

“I think the main thing is for them to know that we needed them,” Pérez said. “We needed Plesac as much as we needed Clevinger, even though he got traded. This is a family. We need those guys. We need everybody in this clubhouse. He's part of our team. I think he knows that. Like I told him, you've been down there, we need you. It's a matter of doing things right. We welcomed him. I think people make mistakes. It's a matter of how they're going to bounce back. He's doing pretty good.”