The Clippers had their ups and downs over the past few weeks last week. They started off last week splitting a two game series against Indianapolis and then got swept by Louisville in a midweek two-game series. Over the weekend they looked better, sweeping Indianapolis in a 3-game weekend series. The week they dropped 2 of 3 against the Pawtucket Red Sox,
Columbus heads into a weekend series against Buffalo sitting comfortably in first place in the International League West, at 65-50. Indianapolis is 8 games behind them in second place with . With about 3 weeks to go in the season, the Clippers have a very good chance to the playoffs. Let’s take a look at the state of their pitching staff as we head into the dog days of August.
Aaron Civale was promoted to Cleveland on Monday to start for the Tribe, and he looked great. In a tough luck 1-0 loss, Civale gave up the only run of the game on a sacrifice fly to Texas Rangers’ outfielder Nomar Mazara in the 4th inning. He pitched six innings, striking out seven, walking one, and only giving up three hits. Civale may be sticking around Cleveland for a while, as they need a fifth starter after the Trevor Bauer trade and the four-inning flameout of Danny Salazar last week. He’s looked good in Columbus this season to go along with his two strong starts in Cleveland this season, so here’s hoping he can give the Indians a chance to win every fifth day.
Logan Allen was one of the five players the Indians received in return for Trevor Bauer. And with all the hoopla around that trade, Allen almost seemed like an afterthought. However, he was the #7 prospect in the Padres loaded system. His first start for the Clippers on Saturday was not great – three earned runs in 2.1 IP, along with four hits and two walks. But once he settles in the 24-year old lefty should give the Clippers’ rotation a boost and he could be in line to grab a rotation spot in Cleveland in the not-too-distant future. The Indians could use a lefty in their rotation. Allen was a bit rushed to the majors this year likely before he was ready to make the jump. Now with Cleveland, the Indians have given him more time to develop in AAA in hopes he can be that lefty of the future.
How long Civale lasts in the Indians’ rotation may depend on the health of Corey Kluber. Kluber started for the Clippers on Thursday in his first rehab assignment. He pitched three innings, and seemed to get sharper as each inning wore on. He gave up 2 home runs early, which doesn’t mean anything in a first rehab assignment, and he also struck out two. Kluber threw 24 of his 41 pitches for strikes. Most importantly Kluber told reporters he felt good after the start. Can Kluber get healthy in time to help the Indians in a September playoff push? Can he pitch enough between now and then to be the Indians’ third starter behind Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber if the Indians make the playoffs? Columbus fans will got the first look during Thursday’s matinee game, and there is reason to be cautiously optimistic.
Cam Hill – The 25-year old right hander has pitched in 13 games for the Clippers this season. In 16.1 AAA innings pitched, he is 3-1 with a 1.65 ERA. His last three outings have been nearly flawless. Last Thursday against Louisville Hill pitched 2 scoreless innings. He followed that up on Saturday with 1.2 scoreless innings. This past Tuesday he pitched another scoreless inning against Pawtucket. He’s got 24 strikeouts to just five walks over his 13 AAA stint. Hill was an All-Star for AA Akron in 2017, but he spent most of 2018 injured. Now healthy, he seems to be back on track, and looks good so far for the Clippers.
Rob Kaminsky – In 16 games with Columbus, the 24-year old lefty has a 3.24 ERA, with 6 ER, 23 strikeouts, 11 BB, and 15 H in 16.2 IP. The former starter started the season with Akron, where he found his stride as a reliever. Kaminsky went 2-1 with a 2.30 ERA, 30 strikeouts and eight walks in 19 games out of the bullpen for Akron before being promoted to Columbus. Kaminsky’s future as a reliever is looking more and more promising with each game.
James Karinchak – the bullpen wunderkind has been struggling a bit since coming off a two-month stint on the IL. In nine games with Columbus, Karinchak is 0-1 with an 8.59 ERA. Since returning on July 24, he’s pitched in six games. Last week was a tough one for him: against Louisville he gave up 3 ER in .1 IP, with one strikeout, two walks, and two hits. Two days later versus Indianapolis, Karinchak faired a bit better, pitching one inning and giving up one ER, three strikeouts, two BB, and one hit. The key to Karinchak’s success is going to be his ability control free passes to hitters. On Wednesday verse Pawtucket he did just that, pitching an inning and not giving up a walk or a run. He also struck out two batters. The future remains bright for Karinchak, he just needs to work on his control and limit baserunners.
Kyle Nelson – Nelson started year in Lynchburg, where he went 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in eight games before being promoted to Akron. There he went 1-4 with a 3.12 ERA in 23 games, with 36 strikeouts, nine walks, and 17 hits. He’s pitched three times for the Clippers since being promoted to Columbus on August 1. On Thursday he gave up a hit, had one strikeout, one walk, and one earned run in .2 IP. Sunday vs. Indianapolis, he pitched 1.0 inning and did not give up a hit or a run. This past Tuesday he pitched another scoreless and hitless inning out of the pen. The Indians drafted the 23-year old lefty in 2017 out of UC – Santa Barbara. He’s another arm that the Indians are moving through their system somewhat swiftly, and it will be interesting to see him continue to develop in AAA.
Jared Robinson – Robinson also started the year in Lynchburg, where he pitched to a 3.09 ERA, and went 0-3 in 14 games. After being promoted to Akron he went 1-3 with a 1.57 ERA in 16 games. On August 3 he was promoted to Columbus, and he has pitched three innings in relief. In those innings he has given up three hits, struck out three, and walked two. Robinson is a 24 year old righty, and seems to be figuring things out after the Indians drafted him in 2014 out of Cerritos College in California.
Hector Hernandez – Hernandez is one last interesting name currently residing in the Clippers’ bullpen. He pitched in 14 games (four starts) for Lynchburg before getting the recent call to Columbus. For the High-A Hillcats Hernandez had a 2.22 ERA, and went 3-3 in 44.2 IP. Hernandez is a 28-year old lefty, and hasn’t pitched in affiliated minor league baseball since 2016. On Sunday he pitched a scoreless inning, striking out three, walking none, and giving up 2 hits. St. Louis drafted Hernandez back in 2009. From 2009 to 2016 he pitched for St. Louis and Arizona’s organizations. But he spent the past two years in independent baseball, pitching for the River City Rascals of the Frontier League. The Indians saw something in him enough to give him a minor league spot this spring. After finding success with Lynchburg they bypassed AA and sent him to Columbus. We’ll see what he has left in the tank between now and the end of the season.
Brandon Barnes Traded
Outfielder Brandon Barnes was traded to the Twins last week, to make room for Jake Bauers and Greg Allen when they were demoted to make room for Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes on the big league roster. Barnes was an All-Star for Columbus the past two seasons. He was hitting .271 with 24 HR and 77 RBI when he was traded. Now with the Twins AAA affiliate – the Rochester Red Wings – here’s hoping he doesn’t find his way onto that Twins roster before the playoffs and somehow exact revenge upon the Indians organization.