CLEVELAND, Ohio — Sometimes being ready at the right time can lead to your big break. That’s the case for Guardians righty Hunter Gaddis, who made his major league debut Friday against Houston largely because the timing was right for him at Triple-A Columbus.
When Cleveland manager Terry Francona and pitching coach Carl Willis decided to use Kirk McCarty for three innings in relief during Thursday’s 6-0 loss to the Astros, it meant they had to go to their “plan B” for Friday’s game.
“Plan A was to have McCarty start, but when we got down, it was like OK if we empty our bullpen we have Mac against a right-handed hitting dominant lineup, we could leave ourselves really exposed,” Francona said. “So we had Gaddis ready. He’s been pitching really well.”
Gaddis struck out 114 batters in 86 1/3 innings between Akron and Columbus before his promotion. Francona described the 6-foot-6 Gaddis as a “big, strong kid with good velocity and a good changeup.” He said Willis would “simplify” his game plan for Gaddis on Friday against a dangerous Houston lineup.
“This start isn’t going to make or break his career,” Francona said. “Obviously we hope he does great. But trying to ask him to do something before you get to know him, that’s not fair to the kid.”
There were other pitchers under consideration for the start, Francona said, but right-hander Xzavion Curry had not pitched at Columbus in several days before Friday’s opportunity presented itself. Francona and Willis decided it was not fair to Curry to hold him back for too long.
Another consideration is right-hander Aaron Civale, who made his first rehab start Friday in Columbus as he recovers from a sore wrist.
“There’s things that go into it,” Francona said. “There’s also things like coming up we have (a trip to) Toronto. We have a doubleheader when we come back. Then we have another doubleheader. So there’s things that we’re trying to make sure we have lined up.”
Gaddis is the 13th player to make his major league debut with the Guardians this season, including the fourth pitcher, joining lefties Kirk McCarty and Konnor Pilkington and righty Tanner Tully.
It’s the most debuts within a single season for the club since 2002 when 14 players broke in.
Gaddis is the first Cleveland pitcher to make his big league debut as a starter since Eli Morgan on May 28, 2021 against Toronto. Prior to Gaddis since 2013, nine Cleveland pitchers have debuted as starters and are a combined 3-2 with a 3.75 ERA.
Prior to Friday’s game, Cleveland designated outfielder Alex Call for assignment to make room for Gaddis on the 40-man roster. Call, acquired from the White Sox following the 2018 season in a trade that sent Yonder Alonso to Chicago, hit .167 in 12 games for Cleveland after making his debut July 11.
Flexibility with DH
Francona said he will continue to move the designated hitter position around his lineup in order to give some players a day or two off their feet.
“That’s the idea,” Francona said. “These guys have played a lot.”
In the past, Francona noted, he would have never been able to give Amed Rosario a day off on defense and keep his considerably hot bat in the lineup. He will consider doing the same with rookie left fielder Steven Kwan on Saturday.
“This kid has played a ton and he doesn’t have the biggest body in the world,” Fracnona said. “We try to use it to our advantage.”
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