CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Indians made a change in their starting rotation a couple weeks ago, and so far the results couldn’t have been better.
After veteran Josh Tomlin went 0-3 with an 8.10 ERA in six starts, he was moved to the bullpen and the Indians recalled right-hander Adam Plutko from Triple-A Columbus to assume the No. 5 spot in the rotation.
In Plutko’s first two major league starts, he was 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA. On Monday afternoon at Progressive Field, Plutko will make his third start, against the Chicago White Sox, in the opener of a three-game series.
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Plutko’s last start was impressive, a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs on May 23 at Wrigley Field, a game in which Plutko held the Cubs hitless for six innings. He gave up a hit to the first batter in the seventh inning but finished with a strong pitching line of six scoreless innings, two hits, four walks and four strikeouts.
“I walked so many guys it didn’t feel like I had a no-hitter going,” Plutko said.
Indians manager Terry Francona praised Plutko’s poise.
“He walked four of the first nine batters he faced, but you looked up six innings later and he kept them off the scoreboard,” Francona said.
Plutko’s first start this year was a 13-4 win over the Toronto Blue Jays, in which he pitched 7 1/3 innings, allowing three runs and six hits with no walks and six strikeouts.
Going into his start against the White Sox, Plutko knows the importance of keeping his walk total down.
“Command is everything. I need to command the ball,” he said.
Before being called up, Plutko made seven starts at Columbus and was 4-3 with a 2.25 ERA. He was an 11th-round pick by the Indians in the 2013 June draft out of UCLA, where he was a teammate of Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer and Houston Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole.
Monday will be the Indians’ 52nd game of the season, but their first against the White Sox, a team that the Indians had great success against last year. In 2017, the Indians were 13-6 against the White Sox, outscoring Chicago 92-53.
Chicago’s Monday starter is right-hander Dylan Covey (1-1, 3.46), who will make his third start for the White Sox. Covey was recalled from Triple-A Charlotte on May 19. At Charlotte, Covey made seven starts and was 3-1 with a 2.33 ERA.
Covey’s last start for the White Sox came May 23, an 11-1 win over the Baltimore Orioles in which he pitched seven innings, allowing one run and six hits with eight strikeouts and one walk.
In his career against the Indians, Covey has no record and a 3.00 ERA in two appearances, both in relief.
Chicago comes into Monday’s game having lost two of three games in Detroit on the first leg of a six-game, two-city road trip. The White Sox are 8-16 in May.
The Indians are 11-13 in May but still in first place in the American League Central. They are fresh off a rousing 10-9 victory on Sunday on a walkoff home run by Greg Allen in the bottom of the 14th inning that gave Cleveland a split of its four-game series with Houston.