Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac tried to get back into good standing with their teammates during a meeting on Friday, but things did not go smoothly. A testy and contentious atmosphere ultimately resulted in 40 percent of the Cleveland Indians' vaunted starting rotation being optioned to the team's alternate site where they'll remain at least through this coming weekend. ESPN's Jeff Passan reports:
"Despite their production, Oliver Perez, the 39-year-old left-handed reliever, said he would leave the team if Clevinger and Plesac returned to the roster in Detroit, sources familiar with the meeting said. Other players, sources said, felt similarly. Shortstop Francisco Lindor, the four-time All-Star considered the heart of the team, was outspoken as well, according to sources."
Clevinger and Plesac brought this upon themselves by bopping out and hitting the town while in Chicago for business. This is usually copasetic for Major League Baseball players and middle managers from Cedar Rapids alike, but now fun is out the window what with COVID and all. The Indians being especially mindful of protocols and basic decency due to Carlos Carrasco's cancer battle and manager Terry Francona's place in the higher-risk faction.
Both pitchers have been as advertised early on. Clevinger has continued to ride his stellar 2019 campaign in which he went 13-4 with a 2.71 ERA. Plesac has 1.29 ERA in 24 innings and a paltry 0.667 WHIP thus far. The starting unit as a whole has been unreal, posting a 2.43 ERA and covering for a sleepwalking offense.
There are obvious clubhouse issues. Regaining trust takes exponentially longer than losing trust. But here's the thing: If this is a dysfunctional family, it's functioning just fine on the field. The Tribe's weekend sweep of the Detroit Tigers brought them to 13-9 on the year and a game behind the Minnesota Twins. A sleep-walking offense woke up in a big way with Franmil Reyes hitting tape-measure home runs and Sandy Leon rising from his slumber to contribute in both large- and small-ball ways.
This is a rotation that still has Shane Bieber, who is arguably the most unhittable arm on the planet right now, Carrasco, who has shown glimpses of becoming the ace he once was, and Adam Plutko, who has been getting outs in-between publicly calling out Clevinger and Plesac. Then there's the bullpen with James Karinchak and his right-over-the-top filth.
All of this to say: Cleveland has the talent and experience to weather this storm. A small, three-game sample size showed they could move on, counting on addition by subtraction. Granted, that came against the Tigers, losers of 20 consecutive contests against the Indians.
This is surely a major story. Yet we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that it's not a 50-50 fracture emerging. It's a vast majority against a small minority who jeopardized both the season and others' health. And although this clearly isn't the media fault as Plesac claimed, one wonders if this is the end of public litigation. It's probably in everyone's best interest to tighten up ranks a bit.