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Triston McKenzie Eyes 2020 After Lost Season

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The 2019 season could have been the year Triston McKenzie made his major league debut. At the outset, the 21-year-old righthander ranked as the Indians' No. 2 prospect and the top-ranked pitcher.

McKenzie began the season on a Double-A Akron roster that also included more modestly regarded righthanders Zach Plesac and Aaron Civale.

In theory, McKenzie could have gotten called up to Cleveland at some point to help cover for a rash of injuries that forced starters Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Mike Clevinger to miss a combined 56 starts.

The only problem was that McKenzie sat out the entire season with a lat injury, followed by a pectoral strain. Meanwhile, rookies Plesac and Civale both contributed to the Indians’ 93-win season.

It was an unfortunate turn of events for McKenzie, but not the first time he has been sidelined due to injuries. He missed the first two months of 2018 with forearm soreness but made an impressive return. He went 7-4, 2.68 in 16 starts at Akron, holding opponents to a .191 average.

"Not having pitched is obviously a big setback, but we still feel real good about his future,” general manager Mike Chernoff said. "He’ll have a normal offseason and come to spring training with no restrictions.”

A supplemental first-round pick in 2015 out of Royal Palm Beach (Fla.) High, McKenzie has recorded a 2.68 ERA over 329 pro innings. He has averaged 10.8 strikeouts and 2.7 walks per nine innings and held opposing hitters to a .194 average.

McKenzie has pitched himself nearly to the doorstep of the major leagues, but he has a lot of ground to make up from his lost developmental year in 2019.

"This is a big offseason for him, and a big spring training for him next year, to see what kind of steps he can take without having pitched this year,” said Chernoff.

SMOKE SIGNALS

— Third baseman Nolan Jones had ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction surgery on his right thumb on Oct. 23. He began his rehab and could be cleared for unrestricted baseball activities at the start of spring training.

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