Cleveland, OH

The Indians Rotation Is Falling Apart

Zachary Walston

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The Cleveland Indians entered the 2021 season with one of the best rotations in baseball. After trading away one of their two star position players to the Mets last year (Francisco Lindor), they knew the rotation would have to anchor this team. The last month has the Indians looking for a new short-term strategy.

Aaron Civale is the third injured starter

Cleveland lost its first starter to the most bizarre injury of the year. Zach Plesac suffered a non-displaced fracture in his right thumb after "aggressively undressing" and getting his thumb caught in his shirt. He just threw his first bullpen session last Friday, meaning he likely won't return until around the all-star break.

The second starter to hit the Injured List was reigning Cy Young award winner Shane Bieber. After getting hit hard on June 13th, letting up 5 runs in 5.2 innings, Bieber was placed on the Injured List with a right shoulder strain. Shoulder strains are tricky as their prognosis varies greatly. He will be shut down for two weeks before being re-evaluated. This means he will likely miss four weeks at a minimum as he will need time to ramp up through bullpen sessions and a minor league start or two.

That brings us to Aaron Civale, the last of the big three left standing in Cleveland.

Not anymore.

Civale left in the middle of his June 22nd start with a reported injury to his left middle finger. Upon further evaluation, Civale was diagnosed with a finger sprain. A sprain is the medical term for a muscle tear. In layman terms, it is the same as a pulled muscle.

Some will attribute the sprain to the recent rule change banning sticky substances. With the cold weather in Chicago - the Indians were playing the Cubs - the ball was likely slick. Players have reported a need to grip baseball harder to maintain control without sticky stuff, particularly in cold weather. Perhaps the added grip pressure led to the sprain. Perhaps it was simply the wear and tear of a season on the heels of a shortened season and disrupted offseason. Regardless of the reason, he will be out a while.

The Cleveland training staff has shut down Civale for one to two weeks, depending on how his finger heals. If he responds to treatment well and resumes throwing in a week, he could be back within a month. If throwing is delayed two weeks or longer, expect the delay to stretch past the five-week mark.

Cleveland is only 2.5 games behind the White Sox for the AL Central lead, adding pressure for a speedy recovery. They don't, however, want this to be a lingering issue. This is the challenge all training staffs face. They need to balance recovery speed, performance, and injury risk. This year has been more challenging than normal.

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I am a physical therapist, researcher, and educator whose mission is to challenge health misinformation. You will find articles about health, fitness, medical care, psychology, and professional development on my site. As the husband of a real estate agent, you will also find real estate and housing tips.

Atlanta, GA
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