There have been few steady parts of the Indians roster this season (the back end of the bullpen and Michael Brantley), but perhaps the least consistent has been the starting rotation. Corey Kluber has done his job as the ace, making 25 starts on pace for 34 by the end of the year, but the rest of the rotation has almost no structure. Seven other pitchers have made starts this year, which is not an inordinate amount, except there has been no actual rotation. In most seasons a starter could be removed for ineffectiveness or injury, but looking at the Indians starters used this year looks more like random selection.
During the Indians first 32 games, the rotation remained set as the Indians learned what each of their starters were capable of. Kluber, Justin Masterson, Carlos Carrasco, Zach McAllister and Danny Salazar started all but one of those games for the Tribe as Trevor Bauer made a single spot start in a double header. Starting in game 33, things started to get wild. Josh Tomlin replaced Carrasco, who couldn’t get out of the fourth inning and a week later, Bauer replaced Salazar, who wasn’t much better. On May 23rd, T.J. House replaced McAllister, who was placed on the DL without a serious injury, because he was out of minor league options and couldn’t retire Major League hitters. House wasn’t as good as the Indians had hoped and made three trips to AAA between June 16th and July 31st as the Tribe used off-days and the All-Star break to go with a four man rotation for as long as possible.
On July 8th, a major change happened with the Tribe rotation as Masterson finally stopped playing through a knee injury and was placed on the DL, ultimately being traded to St. Louis before being able to return to the Tribe. He was replaced in the rotation with McAllister as Salazar rejoined the rotation as the fifth starter. Of course this was actually much more complicated than it sounds as Chris Antonetti and Terry Francona shuffled the roster at least 28 times just concerning the starting rotation. Most recently, Tomlin was sent to the bullpen while Carrasco was retrieved from the relief corps and returned to the rotation.
Now, the Indians have seven healthy starters who have already pitched at the Major League level as well as Tyler Cloyd, Kyle Davies, Gabriel Arias and Shaun Marcum who have seen varying levels of success in AAA Columbus. With September call-ups allowed just a few weeks from today, most likely all seven who have been in the rotation and one or two of those minor league players will likely join the team, so the question now is, who will start for the Tribe for the rest of the year.
In the short run, Kluber, Carrasco and House are scheduled to pitch against Baltimore and will likely remain in the rotation until they do something to prove they don’t belong. With off days on August 18th and 25th, the Indians should be able to continue with the current four man rotation (Bauer is the fourth in addition to those listed earlier) with just one spot starter needed on August 23rd. This could be Tomlin, who was very effective in the second game of the double header on the 13th, or it could be Salazar, who had great starts in three of four games during his last stint with the team.
If each pitcher maintains his current role, they will each make about nine more starts in the 2014 season, but if the previous four months are any preview, that will not be the case. Outside of Kluber’s starts (and with limited off days in September it would be difficult for him to make more than nine), it is almost possible to predict the rotation for the rest of the year. Bauer has also been solid enough to remain a guarantee for the rest of the year. Outside of the 17 expected starts from those two, there will be 25 more games to cover. With Carrasco, House, Tomlin, Salazar, McAllister all expected to start again at some point this season it could be a very interesting configuration for those remaining games.