CLEVELAND – A trio of housekeeping moves helped fill out manager Terry Francona’s starting rotation before Saturday’s doubleheader at Target Field.
The Indians recalled Ryan Merritt and Mike Clevinger to start Games 1 and 2 respectively against the first-place Minnesota Twins. Clevinger will serve as the 26th man on the roster while Kyle Crockett heads to Triple-A to make room for Merritt.
“What we’re going to do is Clev is going to be the 26th man,” said Francona to reporters. “The reason behind that is, we can call up Merritt and option him back (to Columbus). Clev can be the 26th man, then he can technically go back to Triple-A. But, he can also make his next start in Baltimore (on Thursday).”
Merritt has not pitched in the big leagues since his 4.1 scoreless innings in Game 5 of the ALCS vs. Toronto. With Danny Salazar (right shoulder soreness) on the disabled list and 22 games scheduled for the next 20 days, the decision strictly revolved around the temporary needs of the team.
“He knows everybody and he knows we’re happy to see him,” Francona said. “He was probably the ultimate example of, ‘Stay ready.’ But, I think that was definitely good for him.”
The 25-year-old southpaw has a 3.84 ERA, 1.41 WHIP and .286 opposing batting average through 13 starts at Columbus and Lake County, all uncharacteristic measures that likely correlate with his career-highs in pull percentage (51.3%) and home run to fly ball rate (20%).
Nevertheless, Merritt seems thrilled for the opportunity to prove his value once again.
“Merritt came in with a big smile, shook my hand and was giving a couple guys hugs,” said Francona. “I remember last year when he came in, he was kind of quiet. And that’s okay, but he knows everybody and he knows we’re happy to see him.”
Clevinger allowed five runs on four hits and three walks in his most recent start with the Clippers on June 6. Compared to Merritt, the 26-year-old right-hander seems to have solidified a larger role amid the starting rotation.
“It allows us to maximize our roster,” Francona said. “There will be a few moving parts as we go.”
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.