Cleveland Indians pitcher Zach McAllister began his return to Progressive Field with a start at Canal Park for the Akron Aeros looking as if he’d never been away in a 10-3 victory Saturday night.
The Tribe starter went on the DL on June 8th retroactive to June 3rd due to a sprained middle finger on his pitching hand and is beginning the trek back to the rotation.
In all, he threw 61 pitches, 42 for strikes, in the process facing 15 batters. He left the game with two runners on base that eventually scored giving him responsibility for two earned runs. In all, the outing proved strong.
“It feels real good,” he said of his finger. “The only thing I felt was that I was out of rhythm with my delivery, but I was real happy with my finger.”
Throwing mostly fastballs, McAllister, who was on a 60-pitch or four-inning limit held the Altoona Curve to two runs on four hits. Although it appeared he might have sneaked a couple of curveballs in, he said that wasn’t the case. He’s not thrown breaking pitches while playing catch and not from the mound yet. But he addressed speculation that the way he held the ball contributed to the injury.
“I felt it more in my curve than what it was. The doctor even said it’s a chronic thing for me,” McAllister said. “It’s probably been there for a while. It’s been a little bit of a different injury than he’s used to seeing, but for me it’s something — that’s the way I’ve been able to throw the ball my whole career.”
He has no plans to change the way he holds the ball.
“I’m comfortable with it. I think for me it’s just being a little bit more aggressive with it than I have been in the past because I have that comfortability with it and trust it,” he said. “To me it will just be getting back to it a little bit — maybe not using it as much, but knowing when I need to throw it that I can use it.”
After struggling just a bit in the first inning when he gave up two inconsequential base hits, McAllister (4-5 with a 3.43 ERA with the Tribe), settled down to cruise through the start with few problems as he dominated.
Two of the hits he allowed were infield flukes — a broken-bat flare and the other on a tough chance at second base.
By the same token, he benefited from at least one spectacular defensive play when a ball hit by the Curve’s Charlie Cutler zoomed toward Aeros first baseman Jesus Aguilar, who made a diving catch on the outside of the bag and tossed it to McAllister for an out.
The next stop on the McAllister rehab tour will be for the Columbus Clippers on July 18th against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs — if his next bullpen session goes well.
He confessed that it’s challenged him mentally not to be able to play, but his effort Saturday night gave him reason to be optimistic.
“I’m just extremely happy with the way my finger felt, being able to get back out there again was definitely a nice feeling and also knowing that I have some work that I need to do mechanically to get back to where I want to be — that’s having rhythm and being in sync,” he said.
The Indians announced that shortstop Francisco Lindor was getting a promotion to the Aeros on Saturday with expectations that he could hit the lineup early next week. The top prospect in the Indians’ farm system, according to MLB.com, he hit .306 in 83 games at advanced Class A Carolina.
Aeros manager Edwin Rodriguez hasn’t managed Lindor, but he spoke to him at length during spring training. He said Lindor’s way to continued success is simple.
“He needs to be the same player that he’s been so far. He needs to come up here and play his game and don’t try to do too much,” he said. “He has a very strong mind, so he knows how to keep himself under control, keep himself within himself on the field.”
George M. Thomas can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.