Guardians fall to M’s as pitching injuries take toll

56 minutes ago

CLEVELAND — Just when it seemed like the Guardians’ starting rotation was finally settling in, the club suddenly has two huge obstacles to overcome.

Prior to Friday’s series opener against the Mariners at Progressive Field, the Guardians announced that both Zach Plesac (right hand fracture) and Aaron Civale (right forearm inflammation) were placed on the 15-day injured list. Plesac was scheduled to start on Friday and was replaced by Cody Morris, who was called up to the big leagues on Thursday.

Let’s first cover what happened, beginning with Plesac.

During Plesac’s last start in Seattle on Saturday, he gave up a home run to Jake Lamb in the seventh inning. As he turned to watch the ball fly over the fence, he crouched down close to the ground and punched the mound in frustration. Guardians manager Terry Francona said Plesac didn’t remember doing that and wasn’t positive that’s when the fracture of his fifth metacarpal occurred, but the team is assuming that’s when it happened.

“That, to me and to the trainers, looks like what maybe set it off,” Francona said. “Best case is he’s down a week in a splint.”

The Guardians are giving their best guesses at this point regarding Plesac’s timeline. He’s set to meet with hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham soon, and will have a better idea about his recovery timetable then.

As for Civale, he felt off during his bullpen session on Thursday after looking relatively sharp in his last start Sunday. Guardians pitching coach Carl Willis noticed that the righty’s stuff wasn’t as crisp as it had been since he came off the injured list a few weeks ago. Civale admitted that his elbow was giving him some trouble, which immediately induced some panic among the coaching staff. The team was relieved when the MRI didn’t reveal anything too concerning, aside from some inflammation in his forearm.

“It’s musculature,” Francona said. “But when that happens, you know you get some swelling in that area, it can set off whether it’s the nerve or whatever. It kind of makes it a little angry in there.”

The earliest Civale would be available to pitch in a big league game would be Sept. 14, but the club needs to wait to see how he responds to his initial rounds of treatment. The hope is that he’ll be able to throw at the beginning of next week to test how he feels, and the training staff will determine what’s best from there.

That leaves us with one question: What does this mean for the Guardians, who are desperately trying to cling to first place in the American League Central?

Morris is obviously the next man up, considering he replaced Plesac in the rotation on Friday. He’s working back from his own injury (shoulder strain) and was only stretched out to about 60 pitches during his rehab stint in Triple-A Columbus. The Guardians will keep a close eye on his pitch count.

The club also called up both Kirk McCarty and Xzavion Curry to replace Plesac and Civale on the active roster. McCarty will head to the bullpen to provide some extra length if needed and Curry is slated to start against the Mariners on Saturday.

The Guardians have been a roster full of young and inexperienced players since the 2022 season got underway. The challenge of leaning on one pitcher who made his Major League debut on Friday and another who has five big league innings under his belt is nothing new to this team. However, at a time when the offense has been struggling to string hits together, especially in timely situations, the Guardians have been relying on their pitching staff more than they have all season. It’s clear these latest injuries could cause more problems.

Cleveland is fresh off a losing series against the Mariners, dropping three of four games at T-Mobile Park last week. Now, the Guardians host Seattle for a three-game set this weekend before beginning a critical stretch of eight games in 11 days against the division-rival Twins next weekend.

Each time a rookie was called upon this year, the Guardians had two options: sink or swim. So far, they’ve been able to do the latter. Now, they just need to find a way to tread water for another five weeks to hang on to the division with a new wave of young talent on the mound.

“We’ve got to figure out a way to get it done,” Francona said.