Pro baseball is a grueling six-month, 162-game season. And the Indians are especially beat up as they head into the home stretch. Yet they’re still in the playoff picture.
WKSU commentator Terry Pluto said the team has been built to face down adversity.
Unlike most other sports, MLB athletes play almost every day from March through September. “Recently the Indians had 20 games in 20 days and then it was 24 games in 25 days. Basketball, the season is half as long. And football, it’s one day a week and it's Armageddon," Pluto said.
That grueling schedule leads to lots of wear and tear on players. “I remember when I covered it, I would go to all of the games, home and away, for almost six years. There is this numbing effect of playing here and playing there," Pluto said.
And he said that creates a lot of uncertainity and unforeseen setbacks. "When they talk about trying to guess over the course of a season, it’s almost like trying to guess what’s going to happen in the next six months of your life. Only it’s not your life, it’s the lives of say, 50 to 75 people when you count the coaches, the players and the front office.”
An ace goes down
The Indians were just settling into the season when their two-time Cy Young-winning pitcher Corey Kluber was hit by a line drive and broke his right forearm.
“Pitchers get hit with line drives but rarely do they get hit in the arm and find it broken,” Pluto said.
Kluber was making his way back from the injury when he was pulled from a game in AAA Columbus with an abdominal strain.
“So, that’s two weeks without touching a ball and now we’re into September. Kluber is probably done for the year,” Pluto said.
Rallying around Cookie
Then in early June, the Indians No. 2 pitcher, Carlos Carrasco, went on the injured list with an unspecified illness. He announced just before the All-Star break that he was diagnosed with leukemia.
“Early in the season, he was getting hit hard," Pluto said. "And they were asking him if his arm was hurt. He just kept saying he felt tired and run down. So they’re doing all these tests."
Pluto said no one imagined Carrasco would be able to return to the team this year, but that's looking likely. Soon. Carrasco has spent the last couple weeks pitching in the minor leagues, making several starts for the Akron Rubberducks.
“They weren’t going to take it away from him because he wanted something to keep working for and [he] kept getting stronger. Now it looks like he’s another week or so away from being ready to pitch in the Indians bullpen.”
Carrasco, whose nickname is 'Cookie', has been the heart of the Indians and their fans since he announced his diagnosis.
MVP breaks a hand
The latest star player to be sidelined with an injury is third baseman Jose Ramirez, who broke the hamate bone in his hand while taking a swing in a game last weekend.
“His first 66 games he was batting .198. That’s probably why the Indians struggled early in the year, because Jose is one of their not only ‘Most Valuable Player’ for the Tribe, but one of top 10 or 15 players in baseball when he’s going well. All of a sudden, 60 games ago, he gets hot; the Indians get hot.”
Ramirez underwent surgery on Monday and the team says he'll miss five to seven weeks. The Indians called up Yu Chang from the minors to take his place.
“That’s part of the reason a baseball team is like an army. You need the reserves. You need to make trades. The Indians have had 12 starting pitchers because of the different injuries to players and the trade of Trevor Bauer. The unforeseen things that happen over 162 games, over six months, to a group of say, 60 people.”
Then there are some positive surprises, like second baseman Jason Kipnis returning to form and the Indians acquiring Yasiel Puig in the Bauer trade. “I would never have guessed at the start of the year Puig shows up in a Cleveland uniform.”