McAllister bounces back to get call in Indians’ home opener

Zach McAllister will try to continue the run of strong starts by Indians' pitchers early in the season.

Rick Scuteri/Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

At the beginning of spring training many believed that Zach McAllister’s role in the Indians home opener would be coming out of the bullpen. However after having one of the best springs by a Tribe hurler, the right-hander gets the starting assignment on Friday against Detroit.

"It is definitely an honor. I was thrilled when they said I was going to be able to do that," McAllister said. "I imagine it is going to be like a playoff atmosphere."

McAllister got off to a great start last year as he went 3-0 with a 2.28 ERA in his first four games. Then things unraveled as he struggled mightily in May, landed on the disabled list with a lower back injury and then spent the rest of the season shuffling between Columbus and Cleveland.

It was during an August stint in Columbus though where McAllister started to regain his form. Pitching out of the bullpen allowed him to construct a better warm-up routine before coming in to games. Besides better velocity on his fastball and doing a better job with pitch combinations, McAllister has had better command with it by keeping it lower in the zone.

In his seven relief appearances after rosters were expanded, McAllister was very effective with a 2.77 ERA and 14 strikeouts in 13 innings pitched. With the Indians having three off days coming up over the next two weeks, there is a chance that McAllister could head back to the bullpen since the Indians will need a fifth starter only once.

"When we sent him down he really tried to do everything we asked and he did a good job of it," manager Terry Francona said. "When he came back up we didn’t need a starter so he goes to the bullpen and does a great job. He comes to camp in great shape, the arm strength was good to go and he pitched like we hoped he would."

Added McAllister: "I think for me in years past I’ve tried to throw every pitch as hard as I can but I think from out of the bullpen I have a better understanding of being strong and power. That translated into being a starter. It is a nice feeling when you can have extra velocity."

McAllister faced the Tigers four times last season with three being starts, going 1-0 with a 4.32 ERA.

This marks the 33rd time that the Tribe has hosted the Tigers in a home opener but the first since 1986. Detroit comes in after a three-game sweep of Minnesota.

Five most memorable Cleveland Indians home openers

Among other things to watch in this weekend’s series:

SETTLING IN: The Indians play their next 17 games against AL Central foes, including six against the Tigers.

BATTLE OF ROTATIONS: Tigers’ starters have not allowed a run in 23 1/3 innings while the Indians have allowed only two in 19 2/3. The best matchup of the weekend will be Saturday when Corey Kluber faces David Price.

TOUGH TRIO: Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez were a terror against the Indians last year as they combined to go 74-for-208 with 17 home runs and 45 RBI.

"It is a great lineup from top to bottom," McAllister said. "They have power and speed plus create havoc when they get on base. It is a tough lineup but a fun one that you have to be on your game."

HOT START: After going 0-for-4 in Monday’s opener, Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has four hits in his last eight at-bats.