By Kyle Adams
Valley Central graduate, James Karinchak, had an All-Star caliber first half for the Cleveland Indians. However, after the relief pitcher struggled since the All-Star break, he was sent down to the Triple-A, Columbus Clippers.
The Indians made the move on August 28, while activating first baseman Bobby Bradley from the injured list.
“This is a moment to catch his breath,” Indians pitching coach Carl Willis said of the move during the team’s media availability.
Overall in 2021, Karinchak is 7-4, with a 4.14 ERA in 59 games. He accumulated 11 saves and 13 holds after sharing the closer role with Emmanuel Clase.
He did not allow a run during the entire month of April, or in his first 13 appearances of the season.
At the All-Star break, he had a 2.52 ERA. Since the break, he has posted a 8.40 ERA in 18 games. Over that span, Karinchak is 1-2, with two saves, five holds and three blown saves.
In the Indians 4-3 loss to the Red Sox on August 27, Karinchak entered the game in the eighth inning, looking for the hold. He would give up a walk, single and then a go-ahead, three run home run to Jonathan Arauz – his first home run of the season. Karinchak didn’t record an out.
On June 21 this season, Major League Baseball began enforcing their enhanced rules against pitchers using ‘sticky stuff’, such as pine tar and spider tack. A lot has been made about whether pitchers who have struggled have had a hard time adapting to the stricter enforcement.
Karinchak did not have any immediate struggles after the enforcement began, although there was a significant drop off in his strike out numbers.
Before June 21, he had a 15.9 K/9, or 56 strikeouts in 31.2 innings. Since then, his K/9 has dropped to 8.3, or 21 strikeouts in 22.2 innings.
“I can’t speak for James and specifically what he feels,” Willis said. “I don’t know exactly how he’s gone about things in terms of that throughout the season.”
The move comes at the point in the MLB season where rosters are set to expand from 26 to 28 on September 1, so he may be back up relatively quickly, depending on the work he gets done in Columbus.
“We made the decision on what is best for James Karinchak and how can we get him back to himself,” said Willis. “It’s very difficult in the major leagues when you’re at this juncture of the season. We have starters we’re trying to protect in terms of volume. We have to be able to pitch in the game so it’s hard to do the work at 3 in the afternoon to accomplish some things with James and still have him available to pitch in the game.”