McAllister Settles In to Place in Rotation
During Spring Training the DTTWLN staff will profile and examine the coaches and players that make up and are vying to be part of the 2013 Cleveland Indians—A Team With A New Direction. Today, we examine one of the players that will need to take their game to the next level if the Indians plan to contend in the American League Central Division this season.
When Indians Spring Training opened up it was known there would be competition for the starting rotation. Justin Masterson, Ubaldo Jimenez and Brett Myers were locks for the starting rotation leaving two spots open. Many people believed that young righty Zach McAllister was a favorite for the fourth rotation spot after a solid performance in 2012.
On March 10, the speculation was confirmed when Indians manager Terry Francona picked him for the forth slot in the rotation. “He can elevate by design and get swings and misses. He can create an angle because of his height and delivery. He’s got a lot going for him,” Francona said when he announced McAllister as a part of the rotation.
McAllister figures to be a big part of the 2013 Indians and his success is directly proportional to that of the Tribe. Although he has less than a year of major league service, Francona feels he has the makeup and qualities to be a standout in the clubhouse from both a performance and vocal standpoint.
“There’s nothing we don’t like, his presence and his leadership qualities, big arm. You give him a set of challenges and he sets out to tackle them. The thing I told him was, ‘everytime you take the mound, our team feels like they’re going to win.’ And I don’t doubt he’ll figure out a way to do that.”
McAllister was originally a third round draft pick by the New York Yankees in the 2006 out of Illinois Valley Central High School. The Indians front office, in one of their impressive trades, landed the young right-hander in exchange for Austin Kearns at the trade deadline in 2010. In his first full season with the Indians, McAllister impressed at Triple-A Columbus and even earned a September call-up where he started four games for the Tribe posting a 0-1 record with a 6.44 ERA over 17.2 innings.
The 2012 season saw the righty open up again at Triple-A Columbus where he posted stellar numbers in 11 starts between a brief four-start stint in the majors in May to replace an injured Josh Tomlin. Then on June 28, the Indians recalled McAllister from Triple-A to replace struggling Jeanmar Gomez and this time he was here to stay.
In a tumultuous season for the Tribe, especially in the rotation, the big righty was a welcome stabilizing factor. On the season, McAllister went 6-8 with an ERA of 4.24 over 125.1 innings. In 22 starts, he held opposing hitters to a .268 average and struck out 110 compared to walking only 38. The big righty showed the capability to be dominant at times and that’s what the Indians are hoping to see in 2013.
The 25-year-old right-hander stands at 6’6” and 240 lbs so he certainly sticks out in the dugout but that’s a role the youngster seems to embrace. Before Francona made his announcement tabbing the big righty to the rotation, McAllister was ready to fight for his job.
“Just because they say that doesn’t mean the job is yours,” McAllister said in a Spring Training Daily interview on SportsTime Ohio. “I look at it as, I have to go out, I have to compete and win my spot. If I do that, if I pitch the way I’m capable of, I’m very confident in myself I can do that.”
Although McAllister’s numbers in Spring Training will not necessarily wow anybody as he owns a 5.02 ERA in 14.1 innings, Francona feels that he has shown the staff what they want to see out of the big righty and that’s what earned him his place. McAllister was tabbed to the rotation early in spring to provide him comfort. “We wanted him to settle in and get ready for the season,” Francona said.
And there’s certainly logic in that as the 25-year old will certainly be counted on to be a voice in the dugout.
He’s a smart baseball guy and vocal. Although he may be young, that doesn’t hold him back from being a leader of sorts in the clubhouse. “He’s just a solid guy,” Francona said. “He’ll be a leader here in the not too distant future. I know you have to put in your time in and do things, but if guys like him are paving the way, we’re going to be in pretty good shape.”
Looking ahead to the last two weeks of Spring Training, with job in hand, McAllister can focus on fine-tuning his mechanics in preparation for the team heading north to open the season. The big righty certainly looks ready and willing at the opportunity of being on his first Opening Day roster and he certainly has the support of his manager.
Photo: Chuck Crow/Cleveland Plain Dealer