CLEVELAND — For starting pitcher Mike Clevinger and his Cleveland Indians teammates, the proof, as is often said, is in the pudding.
The Indians’ front office went through a roster overhaul in the offseason with the trades of designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion, first baseman Yonder Alonso and catcher Yan Gomes and let outfielders Michael Brantley, Brandon Guyer, Rajai Davis and Lonnie Chisenhall, as well as relievers Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, walk in free agency.
And despite a new-look roster for a team that has won the last three American League Central Division championships, the players are confident the Indians will, once again, contend for a spot in the postseason in 2019.
“We’re smart, adaptive to change,” Clevinger told WKYC.com at TribeFest 2019. “It’s not stuck in traditional ways. It’s breaking out of that norm that a lot of baseball has gotten in. Our front office is just as heavy on the analytics as anybody now.
“After every game, numbers are being accounted for, everything’s being looked at, and there’s 50 eyes that are going to look at every, single number that you show them. After watching the process for a few years, you don’t doubt that the holes will be filled.”
Cleveland Indians starter Mike Clevinger pitches in the second inning against the Houston Astros during Game 3 of the American League Division Series at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio on October 8, 2018.
From firsthand experience, Clevinger knows things can work out for the better long-term despite limiting options in the interim. Clevinger was a minor-leaguer whom the Indians traded former standout reliever Vinnie Pestano for back in 2014.
Pestano was a fan favorite and member of Cleveland’s “Bullpen Mafia,” but played just one more year at the Major League level, while Clevinger has developed into a middle-of-the-rotation starter for a team with aspirations for another deep postseason run.
“There wasn’t an outrage, but there were a lot of upset fans when I got here for Vinnie,” Clevinger said.
“Everybody was mad that Vinnie was gone, but now, everyone’s happy that it happened. You’ve got to see the future when all this happens. You’ve got to see when all this happens. You’ve really got to look at the whole perspective.”
Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Adam Plutko delivers a throw to home plate during the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio on September 23, 2018.
Like Clevinger, pitcher Adam Plutko knows the Indians have found long-term successes with trades for minor-league players, and cited Brantley as a prime example of a star that developed out of a deal for a standout veteran player.
“You look at Michael Brantley, and he was a young guy just like anybody else is at one time, and then, he became an All-Star, a perennial guy, and guy that we can’t do it without,” Plutko said.
“I think we have that in Jake Bauers. I think we have that in Jordan Luplow and some of the other young guys that haven’t made a name for themselves per se, but they’re definitely coming and they’re going to be really good players for a long time.”
Cleveland Indians catcher Eric Haase bats against the Chicago White Sox in the eleventh inning at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio on September 20, 2018.
Regardless of the makeup of the roster come the end of spring training, reserve catcher Eric Haase believes the coaching staff will get the best out of the players on the field.
“People want to come here,” Haase said. “I think they’ve shown that with some big free-agent signings that people didn’t think Cleveland would be able to do.
“I think they do a good job of maximizing people’s potential when they come here, so it becomes a really good blend on the team, not one guy standing out and the rest of the guys having to pick up the slack.”