Cleveland Indians may boast four-ace starting rotation in 2019

Cleveland Indians Mike Clevinger (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Cleveland Indians Mike Clevinger (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

Starting pitching is the strength of the 2019 Cleveland Indians, and Mike Clevinger would make the Tribe all the more dangerous as the fourth ace.

The starting rotation is THE reason the Cleveland Indians are favored to win the AL Central in 2019.

The front three starters are the most talked about arms, but another hurler could join Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer in rarified ace air.

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Fourth starter Mike Clevinger may be ready to take the next step, according to ESPN’s Jeff Sullivan.

The scribe noted how Clevinger ranked among the 88th percentile (starters) in strikeout rate during the final three months of the 2018 campaign. Over the past two years, Sullivan wrote, Clevinger’s strikeout rate impaired by four percentage points.

That’s a big deal.

Tribe fans are well aware of Clevinger’s impact on the rotation. He made 32 starts last season and hit the 200 inning mark, which was a goal of the hard throwing right-hander.

He was 13-8 with a 3.02 ERA.

"“He’s not hurting for velocity, he throws four pitches, and more than ever before he has learned how to spot them. The Indians might well feature a four-ace rotation. And I’m also a big fan of Shane Bieber,” Sullivan wrote."

If Clevinger lives up to expectations, Tribe fans should expect in-season rumors involving Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer to continue floating around.

Kluber has three years left on his contract, while Bauer is under team control for another two seasons.

Carrasco just signed an extension, so he’s not going anywhere.

My guess is the Indians would prefer to move Bauer, just because he’s on the record stating he only plans on signing one-year contracts when he does hit free agency.

Bauer just won his arbitration case against the Indians and will make $13 million in 2019.

After the 2020 season, it’s a good bet Bauer signs with someone else.

Bieber, kind of the forgotten man in the rotation, is supposed to take another step this season.

Bieber was a 11-5 with a 4.55 ERA as a rookie. While the Indians will employ Bieber as their fifth starter, more than half the league would probably have Bieber penciled into their third or fourth spot.

With the Tribe’s strength residing in its starting pitching, perhaps Terry Francona reverses the trend he started back in 2016.

If the Tribe gets to the postseason, they should ride their starters as far as they can go. With so many questions surrounding the bullpen, you just can’t rely on getting four innings from starters and then handing the game over to the bullpen.

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Triston McKenzie may also be another name to watch. As one of the Tribe’s top prospects, he’ll start the season in the minors, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him earn a promotion to the big leagues with his first working coming out of the bullpen.