Indians' Zach Plesac earns rotation spot, hopes answer is in the hips

Ryan Lewis
rlewis@thebeaconjournal.com
Indians starter Zach Plesac delivers a pitch during an exhibition game on July 18 in Pittsburgh.

CLEVELAND — As famed, fictional golf instructor Chubbs Peterson once said: “It's all in the hips."

Zach Plesac is hoping that's part of the answer to his second season, and that Peterson, from the movie “Happy Gilmore,” had it right all along.

In 2019, Plesac posted a 3.81 ERA, although he also had a 4.94 FIP to go with 88 strikeouts in 115 2/3 innings.

He competed, and he helped to alleviate some of the loss from Corey Kluber's injury, Carlos Carrasco's leukemia diagnosis and the trade of Trevor Bauer. But entering 2020, and now owning the fifth spot in the rotation, Plesac hopes to build on that foundation and support the top of the rotation, led by Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger and Carrasco.

Plesac spent time working out with Clevinger, who has predicted big things for Plesac in 2020, in part due to additional hip mobility that Clevinger believes is the key to unlocking some of Plesac's strengths.

"Just moving efficiently is what I think he meant to say," Plesac said on a Zoom call. "There are some points in the delivery that can be disrupted because of what happens before it. So lining everything up, just getting in a good starting position was the first step for me.

“And then really learning how the hips are supposed to move and work was something Mike has taught me and something I’m getting a better understanding of. As I continue to grow as a pitcher and look to continue to get better, I’m still going to be looking to improve on things like my hips and just get in good spots to where it’s even better than it was. I feel really good where I’m at now. I have to give credit to Clev, who got me in these positions."

Plesac, 25, is part of a rotation in which all but one pitcher (Carrasco) are under the age of 30, and all five — along with Adam Plutko, who started the season in the bullpen as added insurance — are currently under club control through at least 2022. The idea is for that group to learn on the job.

"The best advice I got was, 'Be a pitcher, not a thrower,' " Plesac said. "Learning how to pitch at this level has been something that’s challenged me. I think last year, there was that middle period where I had to make an adjustment to the league as they were getting more scouting reports on me and guys were getting at-bats and seeing me for a second time around in the season and making their adjustments.

“Learning from guys like Mike and moving forward with Shane and Carlos and [Aaron] Civale, even guys in our bullpen who are so smart at pitching, just picking their brains and learning how to tunnel my pitches off them has been incredibly helpful. I have to give credit where it’s due to all of them. Everyone’s helping each other. That’s why we’re doing so great as a unit."

Record breaker

With his appearance in Sunday's game, 39-year-old reliever Oliver Perez officially began his 18th season, a record for Mexican-born players. Perez had been tied with Fernando Valenzuela and Jorge De La Rosa for the record.

"[Sunday] was kind of like a modified Opening Day because I had a lot of messages, a lot of comments, everything really well from everybody around the world," Perez said on a Zoom call. "That’s really special times, saying that. I’m just enjoying it."

"A lot of people [reached out]. Even my wife [Luz], I really thank you for what she did. She grabbed a bunch of video from a lot of people. She did that after Opening Day and that was great. I was crying. I was crying with her because a lot of the people, I haven’t seen them in quite a while and they told me a lot of things and that was a great time."

Perez never thought he'd still be pitching in 2020 when he broke into the league in 2002 with the San Diego Padres.

"I think if you ask that question to all old players like, 'You’ve been playing for this long,' there’s no way," Perez said. "I think this year is going quick. Time goes fast, that’s why you have to enjoy it. Just thinking about the more you learn, the more you ask, that’s the person you’re gonna be. That’s what I learned from the past years."

Ryan Lewis can be reached at rlewis@thebeaconjournal.com. Read more about the Indians at www.beaconjournal.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.

White Sox at Indians

Time: 6:10 p.m. Wednesday

TV: STO

Pitchers: Lucas Giolito (0-1, 17.18) vs. Zach Plesac (0-0, 0.00)

The Indians' Zach Plesac makes a pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates in an exhibion game in Pittsburgh.