It’s a starting rotation that has seen issues already just over 20 games into the season, but also one that is starting to see two pitchers step up and take leadership of the staff. For the Cleveland Indians, those two throwers are Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister, two pitchers who have combined to start less than 100 games in their pro careers combined.
Kluber pitched maybe the best game of his career on Thursday afternoon against the Kansas City Royals, throwing a complete game, 11-strikeout effort that would have been a shutout if not for an error by first baseman Nick Swisher that allowed the only run to score in an Indians’ 5-1 win. Kluber threw 101 pitches in the nine-inning game, an amazing 75 of which went for strikes. “It was nice, I really wasn’t trying to make a bigger deal out of it,” Kluber said about going the distance. “I was just trying to get three more outs, maybe that’s why it worked out.”
It was the first complete game in Kluber’s career, and while he’s just 2-2 on the young season, he’s shown flashes of being the type of starter who can give the Indians the type of start they need every five days to earn a win. Kluber’s manager Terry Francona was equally proud of the effort the Tribe’s third starter gave. “That was really fun to watch,” Francona said. “He had everything working, fastball going both ways, change-up, location, worked ahead, he threw a ton of strikes. That was really impressive.”
What has been impressive is the effort not only from Kluber, who has an ERA of 3.90 in five starts this season, but also from second starter in the rotation, Zach McAllister, who is 3-0 and in four starts has posted a 2.28 ERA and allowed just three earned runs over his last 19.2 innings. The 25-year-old Kluber and 26-year-old McAllister both give the Indians a solid pitching foundation for the future. “All winter long and till now we have consistently said that we think we can win with those guys, that’s a compliment to young pitchers,” Francona said.
The ace of the staff, Justin Masterson, has had issues this season, not recording a decision in his first five starts and posting a 4.50 ERA. He’s allowed 14 earned runs in 28 innings, and it could be a looming contract issue that is weighing on his mind. Masterson is in the final year of his deal, and he and team have yet to be able to come to terms on a new deal to keep him in Cleveland.
The other two throwers in the rotation, Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, are a combined 0-5, and each pitcher’s ERA is over seven. There’s no doubt the team feels Salazar is a star in the making having a tough start to the season, but the jury is still very much out on Carrasco, who is out of options and has yet to show the team he can be effective every five days as a starter at the Major League level.
Which leaves Kluber and McAllister, two young pitchers with a friendly competition between each other. “He was definitely on his game today, it was fun to watch,” McAllister said of Kluber’s complete game effort. If the Indians are going to be a contender, they need more than just two starters to be good, but for now, they will take whatever they can get. “I think we have been doing a better job of going deeper in games consistently” Kluber said. Now if they can get three more pitchers to join them.