The first pitch Zach Plesac threw Thursday against the Cubs was lifted to center field for an out. The second was sent over the center-field wall for a home run.
Plesac realized quickly that the Cubs were in a swinging mood at Goodyear Ballpark. So he did what experienced pitchers have to do in these situations. He adjusted.
“Guys were jumping on early heaters,” Plesac said after Cleveland’s 4-3 loss. “Those heaters kind of leaked back to the middle of the plate. Getting them to the glove side would have been better. They were being aggressive, so I mixed up my pitches at the start of the at-bat and kept them off balance.”
After David Bote’s first-inning homer, Plesac cruised. He went five innings (the deepest any Cleveland starter has gone this spring), allowing just that run on four hits with four strikeouts and no walks. In adapting to the Cubs’ approach against his fastball, Plesac got good results from his curveball and changeup.
“That’s the next step for me is being able to read swings and read how guys’ approaches are through an at-bat,” he said. “That way I can make an attack plan accordingly. I’m going to continue to attack regardless. As I continue to focus on my strengths and execute, I’m able to read their adjustments and I can understand better how to attack them.”
As the 26-year-old Plesac makes gains in that department, he can further untap the potential he displayed in a fantastic — albeit brief — 2020 season, when he cut his walk rate from 8.4% (in ’19) to 2.9% and his WHIP from 1.23 to 0.80, while raising his strikeout rate from 18.5% to 27.7%.
Plesac had struggled previously this spring, with an 8.59 ERA in 7 1/3 innings. But as the workload increases and the schedule gets a bit more serious, he took a big step forward Thursday.
“It really just comes down to my pitches and my execution,” he said. “My last outing [against the Giants], I was just amped up and trying to throw everything as hard as I could. I really just got back to executing where I needed to locate and really just commanding the ball with all my pitches. When you do that, usually good things happen.”
Ticket availability for April
You can’t quite call it a “sellout” when the building will not be operating at full capacity, but Cleveland has sold its entire allotment of tickets for the April 5 home opener against the Royals.
Progressive Field will be limited to 30% capacity, per the local COVID-19 health and safety protocols. Season-ticket holders were given priority access.
Tickets for all remaining April home games will go on sale to the general public beginning at 10 a.m. ET on Monday. Limited tickets remain for the Yankees series on April 22-25.
Availability for the remainder of the 2021 season will be determined on a month-by-month basis until the ballpark is able to operate at full capacity again.
Cleveland reassigned veteran reliever Heath Hembree, who was in camp as a non-roster invitee, to the club’s depth camp.
Hembree had allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits with six walks and eight strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings this spring.
“With the track record he has, we would have loved to play it out longer and give him more opportunities to make the team,” president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “But we just didn’t have the innings for him.”
Yu Chang was scratched from Thursday’s lineup because of a stiff neck.
Manager Terry Francona indicated the issue is not serious, but the team didn’t want to push it. Chang, who is in position to claim a utility job, has had a strong spring, going 6-for-22 with four homers, a triple and nine RBIs.
Cleveland heads east to Salt River Fields in Scottsdale, Ariz., to face the Rockies on Friday. Aaron Civale gets the 4:10 p.m. ET start opposite Jon Gray.