Indians: Bullpen could be key to protecting young staff

Cleveland Indians Bryan Shaw
Cleveland Indians Bryan Shaw /

The Indians are a club in flux. Sure, the front office, manager and coaches remain the same, and sure, there’s always seems to be a Cy Young winner ready to lead the staff. Plus there’s Jose Ramirez, arguably the most consistent player in the AL since 2017 (three top-3 MVP finishes; no other player can make that claim). Yet, the lineup is unproven, and the rotation is untested. There’s talent in both, that’s not a doubt, but there isn’t a lot in the way of consistency. At least long-term consistency.

Except, for maybe the bullpen.

The bullpen is the perfect balance of established veterans, up-and-coming superstars, and reliable pieces that could be truly great. While no one has been named the closer yet, just looking at the bullpen should at least calm some who may be overly anxious.

James Karinchak was a flame thrower last year, striking out 53 and only walking 16. All while only putting up a 2.67 ERA. He’s 25 and about to get into his best “stuff” years. He’s not the only big arm out of the back end, as Emmanuel Clase will surely look to establish himself as the top dog in the pen. He’s got the fastest arm out of anyone and can be truly untouchable if he’s able to locate his pitches. Nick Wittgren is a calm pitcher, who doesn’t let his outings get the better of him. He may not have the flash or consistency as Karinchak or Clase, but Wttgren is reliable.

It’s no wonder that Wittgren, Karinchak, and Clase will all serve as a closer-by-committee role this year, at least to start the season.

They’re not the only arms to pay attention to, with veterans Oliver Perez and Bryan Shaw once again running out from right field for the Indians. Perez was once the future Ace of the Pittsburgh Pirates but now he’s a reliable bullpen arm and at 40, has found his calling. It’s his fourth season in Cleveland and he has maintained a 2.63 ERA across his first three years.

Shaw spent five years in Cleveland, posting a 3.11 ERA, all while becoming the team’s most reliable middle-reliever. Then injuries and inconsistent play cropped up and ruined his trajectory. He hopes to find his old stuff with the Indians.

Phil Maton and Trevor Stephan have a lot to prove still and will more than likely eat up innings instead of pitching out of tight spots. Yet, it’s Cal Quantrill who shouldn’t be ignored.

While many call Shaw “the wildcard”, it’s actually Quantrill. He’s going to do a lot in the bullpen, mostly because he’s extremely talented. Yet, he’s also good enough to be a starter for the Indians, a position he may well actually get if someone ahead of him stumbles.

This bullpen is the perfect mixture of top prospects, good veterans, unproven commodities, and the right dash of “wildcard”.  It will be an absolutely shocking turn of events if the bullpen of all things ended up being the problem this year.

Next. Indians Opening Day: Everything you need to know for the start of the 2021 season. dark