7:03pm: Clevinger is expected to be able to return to action in six to eight weeks, the team tells reporters including MLB.com’s Mandy Bell (Twitter link).
8:58am: Indians ace Mike Clevinger is slated to undergo surgery to repair a partial tear of the medial meniscus in his left knee, reports Zack Meisel of The Athletic (Twitter link). Clevinger has been on crutches after sustaining the injury while training earlier this week. A timetable for his return is not yet known.
While a meniscus tear typically isn’t a season-ender, it also seems highly unlikely that Clevinger would be ready to open the season in the Cleveland rotation. The extent of his rehab will be determined following the operation, but even a return on the short end of typical meniscus timelines would leave Clevinger with little (if any) time to ramp up for the season.
The Indians, for the first time in several years, will head into the season as underdogs in the American League Central — and the loss of Clevinger for any portion of the season will only dampen their hopes. The team is deep in pitching options, but Clevinger and fellow righty Shane Bieber were the two best options at manager Terry Francona’s disposal. (Carlos Carrasco, of course, is immensely talented but more of a wild card following last year’s battle with leukemia.)
Bieber and Carrasco figure to front the rotation now, and the Indians will likely choose among Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale, Adam Plutko, Jefry Rodriguez, Logan Allen and Scott Moss to round out the final three spots in the rotation. Both Plesac (3.81 ERA in 115 2/3 innings) and Civale (2.34 ERA in 57 2/3 innings) looked sharp in their respective MLB debuts in 2019, although fielding-independent pitching metrics considered both to be more than a full run worse than his eared run average. Plutko has been up and down with the Indians over the past three seasons, posting a combined 5.08 ERA/5.61 FIP in 189 2/3 frames. Rodriguez posted similar results to the rest of that group (4.63 ERA/4.54 FIP in 46 2/3 innings).
The 22-year-old Allen, meanwhile, is a well-regarded southpaw who came over in last summer’s three-team Trevor Bauer/Franmil Reyes/Yasiel Puig blockbuster. He’s light on big league experience but considered one of the organization’s more promising arms. Moss, too, was acquired in that swap. Unlike Allen, he’s yet to make his big league debut. He did post strong numbers in the upper minors in 2019, however, including a hearty 159 strikeouts in just 130 2/3 frames. Control is an issue for the 6’6″ lefty, but he’ll get a look as a potential option in the coming weeks.