Cleveland made two notable moves on Monday. First, the team shipped right-hander Mike Clevinger to the San Diego Padres as part of a nine-player deal prior to the MLB trade deadline. Then, Cleveland promoted right-hander Zach Plesac from the alternate site. 

Plesac will replace Clevinger in the rotation, and he will start for Cleveland on Tuesday night for the first time since Aug. 8. This is all appropriate, because that was the outing that inspired Plesac and Clevinger to violate team rules, leading to their demotion and Clevinger’s subsequent banishment (even if the club itself contends that his trade had nothing to do with breaking protocol). 

What’s since been overshadowed is that Plesac was off to a tremendous start to the season. In three outings, he had compiled 21 innings and had struck out 24 batters. Comparatively, he had allowed 12 hits, walked two, and permitted three runs. Plesac was getting ahead more frequently, and was missing more bats. The key change for him appeared to entail his pitch selection. He was throwing far fewer fastballs, down from 50.6 percent to 35.8 percent, in favor of his three secondary offerings: his slider, his changeup, and his curveball.

It’s unlikely that Plesac continues to pitch quite that well, obviously, and there’s no telling where his head will be after the three-plus weeks he’s had. Even so, it speaks to the depth of Cleveland’s pitching staff, and the skill of the team’s development and coaching ranks that they farm out a pitcher on that kind of run without necessarily sinking or dooming their rotation.

Indeed, Cleveland’s rotation now includes five pitchers — Plesac, Tristan McKenzie, Aaron Civale, Carlos Carrasco, and Shane Bieber —  who have an ERA+ of at least 120. It’s no wonder why Cleveland entered Monday with a share of first place in the American League Central.

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