CLEVELAND — When the Indians promoted Zach Plesac from Triple-A Columbus, they were committed to giving the rookie right-hander two starts, according to manager Terry Francona.
He’s earned way more than that.
Despite appearing at the Triple-A level only three times, Plesac, 24, has looked like a legitimate big league pitcher in three starts with the Indians — four earned runs with 14 strikeouts over 19 1/3 innings.
He is just the third Cleveland pitcher ever to allow two runs or fewer in the first three starts of his career.
Each of Plesac’s outings have been pressure-packed, including his major league debut May 28 against the defending world champion Red Sox at Fenway Park.
“Part of the reason we decided to call him up to Boston was because if it didn’t go well, all the player development people were certain that, ‘Hey, this won’t set this kid back.’ Ya gotta think about those things. You’re trying to develop young players,” Francona said of Plesac, who was pitching at Ball State University just three years ago. “Seeing him and the times in between (starts), I can see why they feel that way. He’s a very confident young man. He’s very competitive and he’s got good stuff too to go with it.
“Now he’s made three starts in Triple-A, (three) in the major leagues. So he’s gonna see some things for the first time. That’s just the way the baseball world works.”
Understandably, Plesac has dealt with nerves in each of his three outings, but he’s been able to use them to his advantage.
“Every start I think I get butterflies and it’s a super-competitive nature of mine, I just get those and I put that together as good energy and not let it beat me up,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been focusing on.”
Facing a Yankees team that came in averaging over five runs per game, Plesac allowed only two runs and struck out five to notch his first career win Friday night.
He’s gaining confidence by the outing.
“If I execute, with what my pitches do, it will usually go OK for me,” Plesac said. “It’s when I start missing or try to make too fine pitches, and that’s when they get hit. So, you know, I’ve learned that my stuff plays and now it’s going to be up to me to move forward and learn about more guys and better pitches to make in certain counts and just grow.”
The Indians optioned reliever Jon Edwards back to Columbus to clear a roster spot for Saturday’s starting pitcher, Adam Plutko.
Edwards made one appearance in his third stint in Cleveland, retiring both hitters he faced in a 5-4 loss to the Twins on Thursday.
Francisco Lindor’s fabulous defense has been on full display during the homestand.
“Spectacular. He’s something else, boy,” Francona said of Lindor, who produced fielding gems in consecutive games Thursday in the series finale against Minnesota and Friday in the series opener against New York. “He does it every day.”
Bench coach Brad Mills told Francona the backhand play against the Twins might’ve been the best play he’s ever seen.
In Friday night’s 5-2 win over the Yankees, Lindor made a diving stop behind second base to rob former teammate Gio Urshela.
“It was unbelievable,” Plesac said. “Best play I’ve ever seen.”
Closing the book
CC Sabathia made the final appearance of his career in Cleveland — the place where it all started as a 21-year-old rookie, when he made his major league debut at then-Jacobs Field in 2001.
The six-time All-Star and 2007 American League Cy Young Award winner for the Indians is set to retire following his 19th season in the majors this year.
“It definitely went by super fast,” Sabathia said. “It’s weird now, the dynamic of me being the oldest guy on the team. When I got here in Cleveland I was the youngest guy on the team. It’s just a lot of fun to be able to be in that role now and be the old, veteran guy and helping this club try to win a championship. It feels good to still be able to perform and pitch and play and being able to help the team win.”
While with the Red Sox, Francona managed against Sabathia numerous times, including Boston’s ALCS win over the Indians in 2007. He was asked what has impressed him most about Sabathia.
“What I don’t think he ever got enough credit for was the athlete he was and what I would marvel at and still do is how he can manipulate the ball,” he said. “And by that, I don’t mean by cheating, I mean, ya watch him just throw, it’s so natural. Like David Wells, when David Wells, towards the end of his career, kinda big and out of shape but, man, that arm swing was just so pretty.
“And CC, just the way he manipulates the ball, it’s just so comfortable for him. He’s been doing it for a long time. He’s not the power pitcher he used to be, but he’s got such a good touch and feel. I think that gets overlooked.”
- The Indians entered Saturday batting .265 at home since 2013, accounting for the fifth-highest average in the majors and third-highest in the American League. Cleveland’s .338 home on-base percentage was the third-highest in the majors over the span.
- Former Indians great Carlos Baerga threw out the ceremonial first pitch.