A frustrated Indians clubhouse and the loss of trust for a few: Walk-Off Thoughts
Here are five Walk-Off Thoughts after the Indians' 7-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs Tuesday night, which dropped their record to 10-8.
1. The Indians' starting rotation didn't have a misstep for more than two weeks. Every game, it was solid, with the pitching staff as a whole never allowing more than four runs. One after another, the starters followed each other with terrific outings. Even with the lineup owning a collective batting average under the Mendoza Line, the Indians' rotation kept them afloat.
And then, a few reckless decisions in Chicago by two players while every other player in the clubhouse was instead doing what was best and safest for the collective good of the team, and the pitching train that no offense in baseball had yet to be able to stop has derailed itself. Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac on Tuesday were placed on the restricted list after breaking the team's code of conduct and the health and safety protocols in Chicago. After weeks of the Indians preaching personal responsibility and accountability to each other's teammates, after Clevinger and Plesac themselves filmed a social distancing video during the shutdown, two players put the rest of the clubhouse — Carlos Carrasco, a high-risk individual include — in greater risk.
2. Clevinger, especially, altered the team's immediate plans, as he was scheduled to start Tuesday night. That forced Adam Plutko to again attempt a start on short notice — the other coming after a postponed game due to rain — and face the Cubs' lineup. And for the first time in 18 games, the Indians allowed more than four runs in a game. The 1981 A's, who had 21 consecutive such games to start a season, retain the modern record. But the effects on the field are only half of the equation. Clevinger on Tuesday released a statement through the team, acknowledging that he "broke that trust." It sounds like those in the Indians' clubhouse are waiting for proof that he and Plesac will work to earn it back.
"They hurt us bad. They lied to us," Plutko said on a Zoom call. "They sat here in front of you guys and publicly said things that they didn’t follow through on. It’s gonna be up to them. It really is. I’ll let them sit here and tell you how they’re gonna earn their trust back. I don’t need to put words in their mouths. The term that I continue to hear, and excuse my language, is ‘grown-ass man.’ So those grown-ass men can sit here and tell you guys what happened and tell you guys what they’re gonna do to fix it. I don’t need to do that for them."
3. It remains unclear if any further discipline will befall Clevinger or Plesac. Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti declined to share many details on Tuesday. As of now, Plutko is scheduled to pitch Aug. 16 in Detroit as well, though that time he'd be on more of a regular routine. It sounds as though Clevinger and Plesac have more work to be done in the clubhouse than on the mound.
"2020 is a year of distractions as far as playing baseball, that's for sure," Plutko said. "Dealing with what we did pregame, not ideal. Not really what any of us want to talk about, really what any of us want to think about. But the reality is, that's where we're at right now. It's another distraction for us tonight and I'm not going to say the difference maker, but it contributes. None of the 28 other teams playing games tonight, no other team had to deal with we had to deal with tonight. It is what it is."
4. One element of the Indians having to shuffle their rotation rather than Clevinger pitching a full start was that Logan Allen, recalled on Tuesday to add depth to the bullpen, got some additional work. He threw three innings, allowed one run on four hits and two walks and struck out two. Allen, acquired from the San Diego Padres in the three-team Trevor Bauer deal, has been referred to as a "work in progress" by Indians manager Terry Francona, a pitcher with a high pedigree as a prospect and one the team hopes can be molded into a future option in the rotation. The term was meant as a positive, that the Indians see potential in him. Francona liked what he saw Tuesday night in mop-up duty.
"His stuff was really good," Francona said on a Zoom call. "He’s been working really hard on his delivery and his lower half. We saw his velocity tick up, which was good to see. Command got him in trouble in the one inning. I thought his stuff was as good as we’ve seen since he’s been here."
5. Prior to Tuesday's game, the Indians ran a highlight reel of Jason Kipnis' best plays while he was in Cleveland in honor of his return to Progressive Field as a member of the Cubs. Kipnis tipped his cap to the crowd that would have been giving him a standing ovation had fans been allowed in the ballpark. The Indians also played his former walk-up song.
"It was fun seeing Kip," Plutko said. "I saw him pregame out on the field. I’m glad they did that little highlight tape for him. He meant a lot to a lot of people in this organization. He answered the bell every single day when he was a Cleveland Indian, so it was good to see Kip and I’m glad that they did that little tribute for him and even his own teammates on the Cubs gave him a standing O with nobody here and that was nice, he deserves every bit of that."
"I thought that was really kind of cool," Francona said. "I liked the video presentation and I liked the way he handled it. It was a good moment. He deserved it. He’d been here for a long time. He’d been a good Cleveland Indian for a long time."
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more about the Indians at www.beaconjournal.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.