We will always have Game 5, and Ryan Merritt will always have the large return on his wedding registry due to the generosity of thankful Cleveland Indians fans.
The Indians activated the left-handed pitcher Merritt from the 60-day disabled list on Friday afternoon and in a somewhat surprising turn of events, designated him for assignment.
The hero of Game 5 of the 2016 American League Championship Series, the 26-year-old Merritt came into spring training in a tough position as a pitcher out of options and in need of a roster spot. While plenty of opportunities existed in the bullpen, he was also on a long list of minimal options for a place in the starting rotation.
Instead, the injury bug bit and has barely let go.
At the end of spring, he was placed on the 10-day disabled list with what the team called a left knee sprain. He began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Columbus, but in his first start back on May 4, he lasted just four and one-third innings, allowing four runs on eight hits, and before making another rehab appearance, he was transferred to the 60-day disabled list.
He resumed his rehab assignment on June 14, but things did not go as planned. He was eventually able to build up to a season-high of six innings on June 29, but he allowed numerous base runners amidst reports of decreased velocity (which already was not a strong suit for the softer tossing lefty). He showed good command, walking just one batter in his 26 total rehab innings on the year, but he allowed 42 hits as opposing batters put up a .359 average against him. Merritt last worked on the Fourth of July, when he allowed a season-high eleven hits and four runs in a no-decision.
In his six rehab starts this season with Columbus, he had gone 1-1 with a 5.88 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP, with a 20:1 strikeout/walk ratio.
Merritt has been in the Indians organization since being drafted in the 16th round of the 2011 draft out of McLennan Junior College in Texas. He had made five starts and nine total regular season appearances at the Major League level for Cleveland in 2016 and 2017, posting a 3-0 record with a 1.71 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP in 31 2/3 innings of work.
The Indians will now have seven days to figure out a game plan for the designated Merritt, either placing him on waivers, trading him, or releasing him. If he is placed on waivers and passes through unclaimed, the team can outright him to the minors.
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