The Cleveland Indians expect to feature a premier bullpen comprised of intimidating arms like Andrew Miller, Cody Allen, Boone Logan and Bryan Shaw in 2017.
Aside from this quartet, other bits and pieces of the relief unit face the challenge of finding consistent innings throughout the season.
Qualifying for this group of leftovers are Adam Plutko and Chris Narveson, both of whom cleared their first checkpoint in Game 3 of the Cactus League.
The duo retired 11 of the final 13 opposing hitters to seal a 3-2 victory over the Texas Rangers on Monday afternoon at Goodyear Park in Goodyear, AZ. Zach McAllister and Dan Otero registered scoreless appearances to compliment the multi-hit efforts of Carlos Santana and Michael Martinez.
Mickey Callaway has now coached the pitching corps to a 1.67 ERA in their 27 innings of work this spring.
Through three games, the Tribe bullpen has exceeded all expectations placed upon them. 16 different pitchers have notched shutout outings and combined for a jaw-dropping stat line of 19 IP, 16 H, 0 R/ER, 7 BB, 16 K. Only Shawn Morimando has allowed a run to score out of the pen in 2017.
After Carlos Carrasco made his first start (2 IP, 3 H, 2 R/ER, 0 BB, 2 K) since Sept. 17 and allowed an early triple to Juremi Profar and two-run home run to Nomar Mazara, McAllister took the hill and set the stage for the aforementioned medley of near-perfect relief performances.
Despite surrendering the home run, Carrasco was encouraged by the way he pitched.
“Today I feel great, my hand is good,” said Carrasco to reporters. “To be honest, it felt a little bit weird to be back on the mound, but at the same time I felt good. Everything was good, coming out good. Every pitch was good.”
Carrasco was rehabbing a fractured right hand over the off-season.
Middle inning comeback
With Carrasco faltering in the first frame, the middle of the order stepped up and carried the offensive workload midway through the contest.
Santana singled and Edwin Encarnacion walked before Tyler Naquin slashed an RBI single to center field to cut the deficit to 2-1 in the fourth inning. One batter later and Naquin sustained his promising start by stealing second base and forcing manager Jeff Banister to change pitchers.
In the fifth, Martinez ripped a leadoff double to flip the lineup over to the heart of the order. The versatile infielder would come around to score on Francisco Lindor’s RBI single to even the game at 2-2.
Enter the newly acquired Chris Colabello.
As a pinch-hitter for Santana, the Italian slugger found a void in the outfield for an RBI double, his second two-bagger in as many games. From that point on, the bullpen took matters into their own hands and prevented any further damage from crossing the plate.
A portion of the Tribe roster will head to Mesa, AZ on Tuesday to clash with the Oakland Athletics from Hohokam Stadium.
Mike Clevinger will make his second appearance of the spring while Jharel Cotton will make his 2017 debut.
John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.