CLEVELAND – The Guardians have found themselves in a more complex situation than they had anticipated.
Before Monday night’s 6-0 loss to the Rockies at Progressive Field, manager Terry Francona sat down with President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti and General Manager Mike Chernoff, explaining that his plan would be to steer clear of using Xzavion Curry in relief.
If Cleveland can go through the first two contests of this three-game series without running Curry to the mound, it will save a lot of headaches. The Guardians are initially short due to Saturday’s double header. The club knew it was the day off Thursday, and thought Curry could start in the final series on Wednesday, eat some runs, turn the ball over to the bullpen to finish it off, and everyone could get some rest the next day.
Instead, Curry had to be deployed on Mondays as the guardians were limited in their options. Cal Quantrill gave up five runs on eight hits over just 3 1/3 innings pitched. Francona turned on Nick Sandlin and Tim Herren for a combined 2 1/3 frames, but it was Curry who had to take the last 3 1/3 turns. The right-hander performed admirably, allowing no hits while recording one hit and one walk while throwing 52 pitches.
“I said I’m going to try to stay away from this kid because I don’t want to force anyone’s hand,” Francona said. “That’s not why we’re here. But I didn’t know where to go.”
So, where do the Guardians go from here? It’s not as simple as announcing Tanner Baby, the club’s No. 5 prospect for every MLB pipeline, as Wednesday’s starter and moving forward. Cleveland has to determine the composition of its roster and what will make the most sense going forward.
Let’s try to think of scenarios.
Even with Thursday out, the Guards likely won’t have enough arms on their toes for a break on Wednesday, especially with Peyton Battenfield, who has only two major league starts under his belt, on the rubber on Tuesday. This means that the team will have to call someone from the juniors to get the start.
A spot on the 26-man (and possibly 40-man, depending on who takes the call) roster should open up. But another thing to keep in mind is the fact that Guardians can only carry more than 13 Archers. At the moment, the club already has 13, which means that the pitcher must be selected in order to get a player on the active list.
The Guardians aren’t going to let go of a regular starter at the start of the season. If the team feels that a guy like Battenfield, who has done well in his first two big league starts, could benefit from more time at Triple-A Columbus, perhaps he could be pushed back down the line. But since he’s earned the right to be in the rotation up to this point, this could be an important arm, leaving only seven relievers on the roster.
Guardians may be hoping left-handed insolvent Sam Hentges will be back at the mall by the end of the week. This means that getting through Wednesday’s competition won’t be too difficult with only seven relievers. But that means someone has to be picked again on Friday (anyone would likely come in on a Wednesday) to make room for the return of Hintigs.
If Cleveland needs to call up a Minor League starter, the first three names that come to mind are Bibee, Gavin Williams, and Konnor Pilkington.
Already pitching to the 40s, Pilkington will be on short rest, considering he started for Columbus on Saturday, but he’s only thrown 51 pitches in a three-inning walk. And as dominant as Williams was with Akron — he threw five frames without a hit the last time around — he’s still not likely to jump from Double-A to the Majors.
But it’s not off the table, especially since Guardians assistant general manager James Harris made it clear that Williams was in the discussion to start the main club on Sunday.
This makes Bibi look like the likely candidate. He is scheduled to play Tuesday for Columbus and could easily be brought back a day to start for the Guardians. He got off to a hot start, having a 1.76 ERA in his first three innings.
Bibee probably won’t be able to find a permanent spot on Cleveland’s roster just yet, but he could get a chance to make a solid first impression. Now, the Guardians just need to decide if this move would make more sense.
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