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The Guardians Have a Good Pitching Problem

The Cleveland Guardians have more pitchers than they know what to do with, but as the saying goes, you can’t have too much pitching.

The Cleveland Guardians have a pitching problem. But it’s a good problem, due to the embarrassment of riches they have at this position.  There is a downside to this, however. With so many interchangeable pieces, the rotation and bullpen could present some difficult question marks.  And manager Terry Francona notes that Cleveland will not be going to a six-man starting rotation, per WOIO CBS.

The top two guys in this season’s Guards rotation are Shane Bieber and Cal Quantrill. Spots three, four, and five, on the other hand, are revolving doors at this point.

Cleveland seems to have found two call-ups from Triple-A Columbus that are working well in Tanner Bibee and Logan T. Allen. But how should the Guardians handle their current pitching problem? Let’s take a bit of a deeper dive to understand the issue.

The Wealth at the Position

With the youth movement still in full effect, pitcher is a position still in full bloom in northeast Ohio. Both Bibee and Allen made their Major League debuts in April and have six and seven starts under their belt, respectively. Bibee, the 24-year-old right-hander from Cal State Fullerton, has a 1-1 record and an excellent 2.88 ERA. Conversely, Allen, a 24-year-old lefty and Florida International University product, sports a 2-2 mark and a healthy 2.72 ERA.

That leaves the number five position in the rotation up for grabs. And Cleveland has a variety of names to choose from through Columbus call-ups or guys already on the roster. Triston McKenzie is currently rehabbing from a right shoulder strain, Aaron Civale is dealing with a left oblique strain but will return to the big leagues soon, and Zach Plesac is having some troubles with consistency of his own.

But that allows for some prospects to show their stuff. Two already have done just that in Hunter Gaddis and Peyton Battenfield. Battenfield is struggling to the tune of an 0-5 win-loss record with a 5.19 ERA. Gaddis does have a win, but a slightly higher ERA at 5.34 in six starts. So, the rotation has its bright spots and its question marks. For a young team like the Guardians, it’s acceptable to go through some growing pains.

Bullpen: Lots of Talent, But Going Through Some Doldrums

One of the key spotlights behind Cleveland’s success in 2022 was their bullpen. However, with a semi-lackluster offense, the bullpen is being tested early in games through the opening stanza of the 2023 campaign. One of the key reasons behind the success was the lights-out pitching of closer Emmanuel Clase.

The flame-throwing right-hander converted 42 of his 46 save opportunities last season to go with a 3-4 record and an impressive 1.36 ERA. In 2023, however, the Dominican is having a bit more of a struggle with inconsistency. Through 28 games, Clase sports a 17-of-22 save conversion rate, a 1-4 win-loss mark, and a 3.33 ERA.

Another guy going through some early-season troubles is James Karinchak. A guy whose style is similar to Ricky Vaughn in the Major League movie, he can be either lights out dominant or a guy that can incite rage in a fan base. After a strong 2022 (2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in 38 appearances and four saves), the New York native is 1-4 with a rough 4.37 ERA through 26 appearances.

What Should the Guardians Do?

As mentioned before, this is a good problem to have. To counteract the high-power offense in today’s game, teams need to have steady pitching. And Cleveland certainly has plenty of talent with pitching. The abundance of options the Guardians have can help take a lit bit of pressure off of Francona’s mind. When healthy and on their game, Cleveland certainly could present an argument for toting the top rotation in the Majors. And with a top-notch farm system to boot, the future is bright for the rotation and bullpen with the Guardians.

Looking ahead, the depth will receive a major test. The Associated Press reports that Quantrill is heading to the Injured List with right shoulder inflammation. But Civale appears to be on his way back, and McKenzie is soon to follow.

There are a couple of questions to answer, however. One, when the two aforementioned pitchers in McKenzie and Civale return, could someone who currently is a starter be moved to the bullpen? And two, what sort of strategy do they take?

As pitching coach Carl Willis talks to beat reporter Mandy Bell, he notes a very valuable piece of advice. Willis says: “I look at it like this: We’re the first line of run prevention. Regardless of the score, we’re trying to keep the other team at zero as long as we can. We want to prevent runs. If we take that approach, you kind of take the score out of it and just go out and try to get outs.”

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the Cleveland Guardians have a good problem with their wealth of pitching talent. It certainly helps to have depth and the next-man-up mentality. And when the depth turns into positive results, it can turn into major success for the team. So sometimes, having too much talent is a good thing. And the Guardians are not shy to showcase what young talent they have.

All stats are through Wednesday, May 31.

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