The Cleveland Indians appear to have an Opening Day roster in place just days before the start of the 2021 season.
Now comes figuring out how to deploy that roster.
One role in focus is that of the closer.
Terry Francona has shown in the past he doesn’t necessarily opt for the traditional route of one person handling late-game duties.
That is usually the best option considering games can be lost in the sixth inning the same way they can be lost in the ninth.
Francona appears to be taking a similar route in 2021, according to MLB.com’s Mandy Bell.
Tito said he talked to James Karinchak, Nick Wittgren and Emmanuel Clase about keeping workloads pretty equal early in the season. Sounds like any of them could pitch in a save situation. He also told them they may also pitch when the team is losing just to keep getting work.
— Mandy Bell (@MandyBell02) March 28, 2021
A Committee Approach in 2021
The former showed his high-intensity approach last year, while the latter will finally make his debut with the Indians after serving a suspension last season.
Emmanuel Clase threw 253 cutters in 2019.
• 9 of them were between 96.0-96.9 mph.
• 22 of them were between 97.0-97.9 mph.
• 60 of them were between 98.0-98.9 mph.
• 98 of them were between 99.0-99.9 mph.
• 64 of them were between 100.0-101.4 mph.
All were above 96+ mph. pic.twitter.com/sX42Al6nlC
— Everything Cleveland (@everythingcle_) December 15, 2019
But some fans may have forgotten about Nick Wittgren as well.
That would be a mistake as Wittgren has been extremely reliable since coming to Cleveland in 2019.
The 29-year-old has a 2.99 ERA in his two seasons with the Indians and made 25 appearances during last year’s shortened schedule.
Wittgren has all four of his career saves with the Indians and could reach that mark in April alone if he gets equal save chances from Francona.
This should mean we see one of the three, or more, every single game to start the season.
Francona wants to keep his new high-leverage trio fresh and having a late-game rotation makes sense.
Wittgren has never been a closer, while Karinchak has limited experience and Clase is coming off a suspension.
The worst thing to do would be forcing one player to be the closer and putting all that pressure on them in an unfamiliar role.
That is true for every team in baseball.
Remaining Questions Moving Forward
The Indians don’t need a true closer in 2021.
However, some fans may be waiting to see if one of the three does emerge as the main late-game option.
Having three players penciled in for this role does answer plenty of questions that existed when spring training began.
Roles are now defined and the questions have to do with whether a closer will be found, or if Francona will just go with the hot hand.
This worked to perfect for the Indians in the past, so there is no reason why the same can’t be true this season.