As expected, the Indians activated right-handed starter Zach McAllister Wednesday, albeit a day early.
Not expected was the club designating left-handed reliever Josh Outman for assignment in order to make room for McAllister’s return – especially a day before a roster move was necessary.
“If something fluky happens (Wednesday), we protect ourselves without making four moves,” Indians manager Terry Francona explained before Wednesday’s game was postponed, noting that Outman would have been unavailable to pitch after he’d just logged 1 1/3 innings at the end of the Tribe’s 9-3 blowout loss to the Angels Tuesday.
Outman, a free agent who signed with the Tribe for $1.25 million, recorded a 3.28 ERA in 31 appearances for the Tribe this season. But he’d struggled with his command to the point of being bumped from his seventh-inning set-up role by rookie left-hander Kyle Crockett.
In addition, the lefty specialist who makes a living coming in for a batter or two in crucial sitiuations, simply wasn’t getting the job done. While left-handed hitters were batting only .180 against him, right-handers were feasting at a .295 clip.
“When Crockett came to (the big leagues), it kind of changed Josh's role,” Francona said. “We’re looking for a little bit in length and I'm not sure that role really fit (Outman). We feel that Crockett can throw strikes and that he's going to do nothing but probably get better.”
Crockett, who is currently in his second stint with the Indians after becoming the first player among all minor leaguers to reach the majors from the 2013 draft class, owns a 1.29 ERA in six appearances.
Only time will tell whether Outman will remain with the organization. The Indians have the option to trade or release him over the next 10 days. However, if released and he clears waivers, Outman could accept a minor league assignment.
In the meantime, the Indians hope McAllister’s return to the rotation provides the boost he did when he began the first month of the season as the team’s most effective starter.
“I feel good, 100 percent ready to go,” said McAllister, who’d been on the disabled list since May 22 with a lower back strain. “I think the (DL stint) was good for two reasons,” he said. “(One), to take a step back to evaluate what was going on. And two, I was able to get healthy.”
He also said it helped to be able to stay with the team for the most part, coming back to Cleveland between his three rehab starts to throw bullpens as well as joining his teammates for the Boston leg of their recent 10-game road trip.
"It was nice because that way, (Tribe pitching coach) Mickey (Callaway) and Cashy (bullpen coach Kevin Cash) could see me throw and determine how well I was progressing,” said McAllister, who is 3-4 with a 5.89 ERA in 10 starts with the Indians this season.