CLEVELAND -- Because rosters are not frozen during the suspension of play caused by the coronavirus pandemic, teams are still making transactions, and the Indians have now optioned their second wave of players since baseball was put on hold.
On Thursday afternoon, Cleveland announced that Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale, James Karinchak and Bradley Zimmer were sent down to Triple-A Columbus. With an overcrowded outfield, Zimmer was expected to begin the year in Columbus, but Plesac, Civale and Karinchak still have extremely high chances of making the Tribe’s Opening Day roster.
Zimmer missed nearly all of the 2019 season with shoulder and oblique injuries. He returned at full strength at the start of Spring Training and hit .200 with one homer, four RBIs and 10 strikeouts in nine Cactus League games. But with 10 outfielders on the 40-man roster and a year’s worth of at-bats to make up, Zimmer wasn’t expected to break camp with the team.
Plesac and Civale will likely still be fighting for two of the open spots in the rotation. Now that this pause in action will give Mike Clevinger (partial meniscus tear) and Carlos Carrasco (elbow inflammation) enough time to heal, the two will join Shane Bieber as the team's top three starters, leaving Adam Plutko, Plesac and Civale to battle for the remaining two spots.
Plesac looked sharp in his three spring starts, especially his final outing against the Giants. He posted a 3.24 ERA in 8 1/3 frames, striking out nine batters and allowing two walks. Civale got off to a bit of a late start after dealing with discomfort in his groin, but gave up just one run -- a solo homer -- in two starts, picking up nine strikeouts in five innings.
Just like Plesac and Civale, Karinchak also seems to be a top candidate to make the Indians’ 26-man roster. He made six appearances this spring, allowing two runs with nine strikeouts and five walks through 5 2/3 frames. Trouble with fastball command remains his biggest hurdle to overcome, but his nasty 12-to-6 curveball caught the attention of his teammates and coaching staff.
The guaranteed arms in the bullpen are currently closer Brad Hand, Nick Wittgren, Oliver Pérez and Adam Cimber. With an upper back strain keeping Emmanuel Clase out of the mix for the time being, Karinchak, James Hoyt, Phil Maton, Hunter Wood and Cam Hill will have a chance to battle for the four final spots in the bullpen.