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Indians’ Mike Clevinger to miss 6-8 weeks following knee surgery

The Indians are counting on their rotation to keep them competitive this season, so this certainly isn’t great news.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Washington Nationals Photo by Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Indians starter Mike Clevinger will miss 6-8 weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus in his left knee, as the team told reporters on Friday morning. The Athletic’s Zack Meisel was the first to report that Clevinger would undergo surgery:

Even though the injury will only keep Clevinger out for the first few weeks of the season at most, it’s an unwelcome development for the Indians, who traded Trevor Bauer last July and Corey Kluber this offseason largely because they were confident in Clevinger’s ability to be their ace.

Though he was somewhat inconsistent as a rookie in 2016, the 29-year-old Clevinger has been absolutely dominant over the last three seasons and has a 3.20 ERA and 1.19 WHIP over 97 career games (84 starts). He missed roughly two months near the start of the season due to an upper back strain, but it’d be fair to argue that 2019 was his best season yet. Over 21 starts, he threw for a 2.71 ERA — particularly impressive during a season where the ball was likely juiced — and a 1.06 WHIP, 169 strikeouts, and 37 walks over 126 innings.

With Clevinger sidelined, Shane Bieber figures to be the Indians’ Opening Day starter this year. The Indians theoretically don’t need a fifth starter until April 4 (and that’s assuming they don’t have any early games wiped out due to weather, which is a virtual impossibility since they play their first 13 games against AL Central teams), so it’s possible that Clevinger may be back before they need a fill-in fifth starter. With Bieber and Carlos Carrasco seemingly locked into spots, that should leave Zach Plesac, Aaron Civale, Adam Plukto, Logan Allen, and Jefry Rodriguez competing for the last two or three spots.