DETROIT — The Indians' rotation has been delivered a significant blow, and the club will be without a key player for the foreseeable future.

The Indians announced Tuesday that Mike Clevinger is being placed on the 10-day injured list with a high-grade strain of the teres major muscle in his upper back, an injury that manager Terry Francona called "significant." Francona said the team is looking at a timeline of six to eight weeks before Clevinger will even be able to pick up a baseball and be re-evaluated.

Clevinger was pulled from Sunday's start after only 75 pitches, but he had been pitching with discomfort for a few innings. He said after the game Sunday that he expected to make his next start. It was also said then that the hope was that the team was just being overly cautious, but after Clevinger was evaluated Tuesday morning in Cleveland following an MRI, the bad news for the rotation was delivered.

"We need to allow our trainers, the doctors, Clev, the chance to kind of put their heads together and see, does he see another doctor? Things like that," Francona said. "But we do know that it’s probably going to be six to eight weeks before we’re even looking at him picking up a ball. So, it’s significant."

Clevinger was off to a tremendous start to this 2019 season, making the timing of the injury even worse. In his two starts, he pitched 12 scoreless innings, allowed only two hits and struck out 22. His velocity had also ticked up. His fastball averaged 96.1 mph on Sunday, up from 94.8 on April 1. Clevinger is also coming off a breakout 2018 season during which he posted a 3.02 ERA with 207 strikeouts in 200 innings.

The Indians now have much to figure out, not only for Saturday in Kansas City — which would have been Clevinger's day — but with how to handle his spot in the rotation for potentially a few months.

"We’ll figure it out. I always feel like we will," Francona said. "There’s no doubt, the way Clev was pitching, and you could see the way he was improving, we’re going to miss him. I always feel like we’ll figure it out. My heart goes out to Clev. Everybody that’s been around here has seen how hard he’s worked to get where he’s gotten."

Adam Plutko, who would normally be the first choice to replace one of the five starters, is sidelined with a forearm strain. It's possible he could be out for another few weeks. Danny Salazar, meanwhile, is still only throwing twice-weekly bullpen sessions.

Cody Anderson could be called upon, although he's only thrown three innings at Triple-A as he continues to work his way back to a major-league mound after Tommy John surgery. Asher Wojciechowski, brought in as a nonroster invitee, Jefry Rodriguez, who was acquired from the Washington Nationals in the Yan Gomes deal, and Chih-Wei Hu, who was brought in through a trade before the Rule 5 draft, are all options to join the rotation.

With Clevinger out, the Indians recalled reliever Nick Wittgren from Triple-A Columbus to provide the bullpen some extra help as the team figures out how to handle Saturday's start and beyond.

"Thought he had a really good spring," Francona said of Wittgren. "He kind of came as advertised. Kept the ball down. Had a little bit of deception. Wasn’t afraid. Could pitch multiple innings. It was a tough send-down for us. He handled it like a pro. And I told him the next time I saw him it’d be a lot more fun, and it was."

 

Ryan Lewis can be reached at rlewis@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.