May 5—The Guardians' starting rotation for 2023, set long before the start of spring training, quickly became unset even before spring training ended.
The latest casualty is right-hander Zach Plesac. But unlike Triston McKenzie (right shoulder injury) and Aaron Civale (oblique strain), Plesac is not on the injury list. Instead, he was demoted to Triple-A Columbus on May 4 because he has been ineffective.
Fortunately for the Guardians — fortunately probably isn't the right word because that implies luck is involved — young rookie arms have emerged from the farm system to fill the void. One of them, Peyton Battenfield, started against the Twins on May 5 to begin a three-game series with Minnesota at Progressive Field.
Logan Allen, who made his Major League debut with the Guardians on April 23, is scheduled to start May 6 against the Twins. Rookie right-hander Tander Bibee's turn in the rotation is set for May 8 against the Tigers at Progressive Field.
Terry Francona isn't giving up on Zach Plesac after @CleGuardians demoted him to Triple-A Columbus on Thursday. Francona also says what he likes about Logan Allen. pic.twitter.com/PLlWCeE2D8
— Jeff Schudel (@jsproinsider) May 5, 2023
Bibee is 1-0 in two starts with a 2.45 ERA. Allen is 1-1 in two starts and also has a 2.45 ERA.
"(Allen has) good poise, which is always welcome," Guardian manager Terry Francona said May 5 in his pregame news conference when asked about the 24-year-old lefty. "He spins it. He's got three pitches (fastball, curve and changeup). He throws strikes. To think that he and Bibee are going to be perfect or they won't have hiccups, that's not fair. But it's been enjoyable and you kind of feel like the more they pitch, the more they're going to learn, the better they're going to get."
The Indians selected Allen in the second round of the 2020 draft from Florida International University in Miami. He pitched for the High-A Lake County Captains and Double-A Akron Rubberducks in 2021. He started 2022 with the Rubberducks and was promoted to Triple-A Columbus where he made 14 starts for the Clippers.
"I think with every level I got a little bit better and it definitely prepared me to be here," Logan said on May 5 in the Guardians' clubhouse. "I trusted the coaches I worked with and put in the work every single day. I try to control what I can control.
"I think a lot of times you try to look ahead, and I think it's important at whatever level you are, you do what you can to learn from those hitters. Ultimately, every level prepares you for the next one."
Whatever worked for Plesac when he was 10-6 in 2021 has vanished, and Francona plus pitching coach Carl Willis can't figure out why. Plesac was 3-12 last season. He is 1-1 in five starts this year with a 7.59 ERA. He has given up 37 hits in 21 1/3 innings.
"We're not given up (on Plesac) by any means," Francona said. "We just didn't see it happening here and we felt like if he goes to Triple-A. he can work on trying to stay in his delivery — all things he'd been trying to do here without the results so important at a major league game.
"Maybe he'll be able to kind of rediscover who he is because it was tough. Any way you look at it, it just wasn't happening the way we needed it to and we just felt like this was probably the best step to do it."
Plesac missed about five weeks in 2021 when he fractured his right thumb when he accidentally slammed it against a chair ripping off his jersey after a rough outing against the Twins. He missed a month last season with a fractured right hand when he punched the mound in Seattle after giving up a three-run homer on Aug. 30 in the seventh inning.
"He's been in the bullpen," Francon said. "Carl said he's been very good. Then whether it's the stress or the emotion of a game, whatever it is, he's trying to do more and then you see less command. Carl said, 'I don't know how to tell you not to do that,' but we have to figure out a way."
McKenzie was injured four days before the season started on March 30. He is on the 60-day injury list and won't be ready to pitch until late May or June if all goes well. Civale has been on the 15-day injured list since April 10. He was injured in his second start of the season.