Phil Long/Associated Press
Much like the bullpen, the Tribe’s group of young and unproven starting pitchers presents a huge question mark heading into the 2014 season.
Barring the addition of another veteran arm such as Ubaldo Jimenez or Bronson Arroyo, which seems unlikely given Francona’s comments to MLB.com, the Indians will have four starting pitchers who have never pitched more than 300 innings in the big leagues.
With the 23-year-old Danny Salazar (2-3, 3.12 ERA) still at least one year removed from seriously challenging Masterson as the team’s ace, the Tribe is lacking a legitimate No. 2 starter. In his 52 innings pitched, including his playoff loss to the Rays, Salazar was 2-3 with an impressive 3.12 ERA. Perhaps most impressively, the 24-year-old right-hander had 65 strikeouts to just 13 walks (4.33 K/BB ratio).
Zach McAllister and Corey Kluber will need to repeat their formidable 2013 seasons in order to ease some of the pressure off the young Salazar and whoever wins the No. 5 spot in the rotation. McAllister, who has the most experience outside of Masterson with 277.1 innings pitched, was bothered by a midseason injury but finished the season 9-9 with a 3.75 ERA.
Kluber, who will likely be the No. 3 starter posted an 11-5 record and a 3.85 ERA. He, along with Jimenez, caught fire at the end of last season and went unbeaten (4-0) in September and October. Kluber proved himself as an excellent strike-thrower, fanning 136 batters to just 33 walks (4.12 K/BB ratio) in 147.1 innings pitched.
No matter who wins the final spot in the rotation, the Indians will have to rely on either Salazar, McAllister or Kluber to lock down the No. 2 spot in the rotation.