McAllister will be a part of Indians’ pitching staff but in which role?

Indians pitcher Zach McAllister during spring training last year. McAllister will compete for a spot in the rotation.

Paul Sancya/AP

GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Barring a massive implosion or injury, Zach McAllister knows that he will be a part of the Indians’ pitching staff when the season opens in Houston.

The right-hander is part of the five-way competition for the final spot in the rotation but also did well in some relief appearances the final month of last season. Because McAllister is out of options and can’t go to the minors without having to clear waivers first, he knows he has a spot but just doesn’t know the role.

"I’m here to compete whether it is in the bullpen or as a starter. Eventually it will all play itself out," McAllister said following Sunday’s workout. "I’m not worried about what is going to happen. I’m here to take care of business and be ready for whatever my role is."

McAllister got off to a good start last season, going 3-0 in his first four starts with a 2.28 ERA. As the Tribe got off to a slow start in April, McAllister and Corey Kluber were the only pitchers in the rotation to post a win.

The rest of the season was a mess. In his remaining 11 starts, McAllister was 0-7 with a 7.30 ERA. In a three-start span in May, he allowed 17 earned runs, including four home runs, in 18 1/3 innings. After a start against Detroit on May 23 where he lasted just two-plus innings, McAllister was placed on the disabled list due to a lower back injury and later demoted to Triple-A Columbus.

After shuffling between Columbus and Cleveland for a couple months, McAllister stayed up for good the final month of the season on the expanded roster. In seven relief appearances, he posted a 2.77 ERA with 14 strikeouts and only two walks while having increased velocity on his fastball.

Said McAllister of the relief appearances: "I always thought it was something I could do. That was my role, and I did what I had to do."

McAllister is in the same spot that Carlos Carrasco was during spring training last year. A difference though is that there were two rotation spots open instead of one. Carrasco began the season in the rotation, moved to the bullpen where he was able to fix what was ailing him and then dominated the last two months of the season once he returned to the rotation.

McAllister’s aim during the spring is to emerge as a starter, but with what he did in September, he has proven he can be a valuable part of the pitching staff. However the fact that McAllister is out of options is a balancing act for Terry Francona in building the rest of the staff.

"It is a very realistic part of the game. If I didn’t say that I wouldn’t be truthful," Francona said. "Guys that are out of options if you can send them down that’s just what it is. When you have guys, who don’t have options and think you are going to lose them that is the fine line you have to walk between losing a guy and trying to win. You try to accomplish both.

"I can see why he wants to start. Zach is excited to know he is going to be on the ball club. As long as he throws like he did in September regardless of what his role is he is going to help us win."

McAllister’s goals during spring training are to be consistent with his delivery and mechanics. That includes keeping the ball low that he did a good job of the last month of the season.

"Every guy in here has been in this situation where they have had to compete for something. If you don’t accept it you are not going to be successful," McAllister said.

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