Plutko to Make First MLB Start in Thursday’s Doubleheader
Bob Toth | On 03, May 2018
Coming off of one of the best starts in his professional career, Adam Plutko will get an even more memorable opportunity on Thursday as he will make his first Major League start for the Indians as the 26th man for the club during the team’s doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Manager Terry Francona announced the decision on Monday night prior to the Indians game with the Texas Rangers. He will start the nightcap of the day’s double dip.
Plutko joined the Indians in 2013, when he was a eleventh round draft pick by the club in the June draft out of UCLA. He was a teammate of Trevor Bauer and Houston’s Gerrit Cole during his freshman season with the Bruins and would be named the College World Series Most Outstanding Player in 2013 when UCLA won the NCAA National Championship. Plutko was previously selected in the draft three years earlier when picked in the sixth round in 2010 by Houston.
The right-hander made his professional debut in 2014, splitting the year between Class-A Lake County and High-A Carolina, posting a 7-10 mark with a 4.03 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP in 28 combined starts. He returned to High-A with Lynchburg to open 2015, but after a 4-2 start with a 1.27 ERA and a 0.70 WHIP in eight starts, he advanced to Double-A with the Akron RubberDucks, going 9-5 there with a 2.86 ERA and a 1.02 WHIP in 19 starts.
Plutko was a spring non-roster invitee ahead of the 2016 season. He went 9-8 in 28 starts, working at Akron and Triple-A Columbus. Later that year, he got the call of a lifetime as his contract was purchased from Columbus on September 20, 2016, and he joined the big league roster. He appeared twice in relief working for an Indians pitching staff decimated by late season injuries. He pitched an inning and two-thirds in his Major League debut on September 24, allowing two hits and a walk while striking out a pair at home against the Chicago White Sox. He took the mound for the final time of the season the day after the Indians clinched the division, working two innings and allowing three runs on three hits with a walk and a strikeout against the Detroit Tigers.
Last season, he spent a tough season at Columbus, going 7-12 with a 5.90 ERA and a 1.52 WHIP in 24 games (22 starts). The most alarming of the numbers, however, was a significant increase in his home runs allowed, as he gave up nearly double the amount that he had the previous season despite pitching in 26 fewer innings over the course of the year.
While he did not appear for the Indians last season, he did get to spend some time with the big league club. He was recalled in June, August, and September during three short MLB stints, but he did not appear in a game while providing the Indians with an emergency arm in their bullpen.
Plutko is off to a good start this season. Through his first five starts, he has earned a pair of wins with a much improved 2.35 ERA and a 0.82 WHIP.
He began the year on a bad note, allowing four runs on six hits with three walks and three strikeouts over five innings in a loss to the Indianapolis Indians, but he bounced back in impressive fashion in his second start of the year. At home to face the Durham Bulls, he threw seven scoreless innings of one-hit baseball and combined with reliever Jeff Beliveau on the one-hit 1-0 shutout. The only hit allowed in the contest was a leadoff single in the second. He retired the final 17 batters that he faced in order, recording the final seven of his eight strikeouts on the night in that stretch.
Plutko followed his first win of the season with another, throwing another six scoreless innings in a home start against Pawtucket. He allowed three hits, walked one, and struck out three.
He made his second road start of the year on April 23, facing Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He took his second defeat, allowing four runs on eight hits with three walks and five strikeouts. The long ball was his undoing as he allowed three blasts to the baby Yankees, including to his former catcher with the Clippers, Erik Kratz.
In his most recent start, he showed no ill side effects from the three-homer, 9-0 loss to the RailRiders. He blanked the Indians in his second start against them over seven and two-thirds innings of perfect baseball, leaving after 95 pitches. Neil Ramirez came on for manager Chris Tremie and immediately lost the perfect game and no-hitter on a two-out double by Jacob Stallings, but he would protect the win, a combined three-hit shutout.
Plutko has never been a big strikeout pitcher during his pro career, but until the last two seasons at Columbus, he had maintained walk rates below two per nine innings. With just a small sample size under his belt this season, it looks like he may have corrected the long ball issue that plagued him last year, as his 0.9 mark this season sits right at his career average after a 1.6 rate last season, his worst in a full season in his pro career. His walk rate has also returned to normal, after being elevated almost a walk and a half per nine innings last season.
It will be a big opportunity for Plutko to help out the parent club while giving him a big stage on which to perform to keep his name on the radar in Cleveland, especially if Danny Salazar cannot return to health and if Josh Tomlin continues to struggle in the starting rotation. Plutko has easily been the best of the Clippers’ rotation (consisting of fellow prospect Shawn Morimando and veterans Stephen Fife, Alexi Ogando, and Adam Wilk) and the only other arm from the staff on the 40-man roster of the Indians is Morimando, who was placed on the disabled list on Tuesday with left shoulder soreness. Shane Bieber will have a chance to also make his case for consideration if needed, at least for the time being, as he was called up to Columbus from Akron to replace Morimando in the rotation.
Photo: Cathryn Wood/Columbus Clippers