Tribe names WC starters; Civale to bullpen
CLEVELAND — The Indians have chosen their three starters for the Wild Card Series: Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac and Carlos Carrasco. Bieber will toe the rubber in Game 1, but the Tribe is still working through the order for Games 2 and 3. With Aaron Civale out of the running
CLEVELAND — The Indians have chosen their three starters for the Wild Card Series: Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac and Carlos Carrasco. Bieber will toe the rubber in Game 1, but the Tribe is still working through the order for Games 2 and 3. With Aaron Civale out of the running for the rotation, he will prepare for a move to the bullpen.
On Friday, Indians pitching coach Carl Willis said that Civale will be working in relief for the Wild Card Series, which begins on Tuesday. Should the team advance beyond the first round, Civale will move back into his regular starting role.
“It’s a tough decision,” Willis said. “It’s a tough situation when you have a three-game series, and we feel like we have an advantage with the depth of our rotation, and having to make decisions with who’s not going to be a part of it in a three-game series.”
Since being selected by the Indians in the third round of the 2016 MLB Draft, Civale has yet to work out of the bullpen, making 74 starts in the Minors and 21 in the Majors. He’d be the obvious choice to be used if Cleveland runs into trouble early with one of its starters, but Willis said Civale could be more than just a long-relief option for the team.
“He’s not a guy that’s going to be down there to give us length in case we get down early,” Willis said. “We see him as more than that. He could potentially come in in leverage situations, and obviously, once we get beyond the Wild Card round, he’s back in the rotation, as he will be next year. So difficult decisions.”
Civale still has one regular-season outing left on Saturday against the Pirates. But because of the quick turnaround to be ready to be used out of the bullpen on Tuesday, the Indians are expecting to put Civale on a pitch limit for his final start.
“We haven’t determined what exactly that number is going to be,” Willis said, “but [we’re] not going to overwork him so he’ll be available on Tuesday.”
The way the Indians use their bullpen on Friday and Saturday will determine who will take the mound in the final game of the regular season. Willis said the top two candidates are Adam Plutko, who gave up one run in three relief innings against the White Sox on Tuesday, and Logan Allen, who was recalled before Friday’s game.
The Tribe optioned infielder Yu Chang to its 12-man taxi squad for the postseason to clear space for Allen on the 28-man roster. In two relief appearances for Cleveland this year, Allen has pitched to a 4.70 ERA, with three strikeouts and six walks in 7 2/3 innings.
While the Indians still own the top Wild Card spot (the No. 7 seed in the postseason standings), it’s not impossible for them to still find a way to secure home-field advantage with one series remaining in the regular season. But without fans in the stands for the Wild Card Series and teams having to stay in hotels to remain in a bubble even in their home cities, is home-field advantage as important to the Indians this season? Acting manager Sandy Alomar Jr. believes so.
“Here, home-field advantage mostly, with no fans, has to do with you knowing the stadium,” Alomar said. “Balls hit to the outfield, it’s going to hit the fence, our outfielders should know how it’s going to ricochet off the wall, stuff like that. With no fans, that should be a great advantage if you are the home team.”
Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.