Cleveland pitcher Zach Plesac suffers freak thumb injury after ‘aggressively ripping off his shirt’


Tuesday afternoon, Cleveland announced (via’s Mandy Bell) that its No. 2 starter Zach Plesac suffered a non-displaced fracture in his right thumb. Plesac will go on the 10-day injured list, but the club did not disclose a timeline beyond this IL stint. 

Cleveland manager Terry Francona told Bell that the fracture happened following Plesac’s rough outing Sunday against the Twins. He allowed five runs (three earned) on five hits and issued a walk and one strikeout across 3 2/3 innings. Francona said that Plesac was “rather aggressively ripping off his shirt” and got his thumb hit hard on a chair by his locker in the clubhouse. That’s incredibly unfortunate.

The 26-year-old Plesac didn’t factor into the decision Sunday, so he at least extended his undefeated streak to six appearances, going 3-0 with a 2.93 ERA in that span. In 58 2/3 innings across 10 starts, Plesac in 2021 has pitched to a 4.14 ERA with 38 strikeouts and 12 walks. In six of his 10 starts, he’s allowed three or less runs. Plesac also has posted a career-high 52.7 percent ground ball rate to go along with a 16.2 percent strikeout rate and a 5.1 percent walk rate.

Cleveland has a strong one-two punch with 2020 AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber and right-hander Aaron Civale, but the depth beyond that duo is wearing very thin with Plesac’s absence. Here’s what the rotation looks like at the moment:

  1. RHP Shane Bieber
  2. RHP Aaron Civale
  3. LHP Sam Hentges
  4. RHP Triston McKenzie (currently in the minors)
  5. ?

Hentges and McKenzie are probables, but both remain big question marks. Hentges has only made three starts this year, and none of them lasted longer than five innings. In his May 17 start against the Angels, he gave up six earned runs in 1 2/3 innings. The 23-year-old McKenzie was optioned to Triple-A Columbus on May 22 after five of his eight MLB starts yielded three earned runs. McKenzie still has to work out his control issues (30 walks in 31 1/3 IP) before he can become a permanent fixture in the Cleveland rotation. Right-hander Cal Quantrill could be another option, but he hasn’t started a game since last season.

Entering Tuesday, Cleveland (25-20) sits in second place in the American League Central, one and a half games behind the first-place Chicago White Sox. Tuesday night, Cleveland will continue its four-game series against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park before they host the Blue Jays for a three-game series this weekend.

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