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Triston McKenzie Makes Statement In Return From Injury



In 2016 righthander Triston McKenzie dominated the short-season New York-Penn League. In 2017 he was the Carolina League’s pitcher of the year.

Heading into the 2019 season he ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Indians’ organization.

But in 2019 he didn’t throw a single pitch.

A rotator cuff strain followed by a pectoral strain wiped out McKenzie's 2019 season, but the numbers he compiled in his previous four minor league seasons were hard to forget, including a 2.68 ERA, a .194 opponent average and 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings.

Following the 2019 season, McKenzie was added to the 40-man roster. He started the 2020 season at Cleveland’s alternate training site before being summoned to make his major league debut on Aug. 22. He shined in his debut, striking out 10, walking one and allowing two hits over six innings.

Healthy again, the rail-thin, 6-foot-5 righthander still maintained the weaponry and potential that led to Cleveland drafting him as a supplemental first-round pick in 2015 from Royal Palm Beach (Fla.) High.

“He has a tremendous fastball, with great ride to it," Indians pitching coach Carl Willis said, "and a curveball he throws out of that fastball, and creates some depth.

“He’s very adept at pitching to a north-south game plan, and he’s working on adding a slider to give him an east-west attack.”

The 23-year-old McKenzie’s mid-90s fastball belies his slight frame and can get on hitters in a hurry.

“A lot of times, guys with velocity have a hard time killing speed, or creating some action on the pitch at the end," Willis said. "He’s working on that."

The Indians were very impressed with McKenzie’s work at their alternate site, which was one of the reasons he earned his major league debut.

"He used the time to improve himself,” Willis said. “He had situations where he got into counts where maybe he could blow a guy away with a fastball, or bounce a curveball, but instead he would throw changeups and sliders, because he understands that when he takes this next step he’s going to have to be able to do those things.”

SMOKE SIGNALS

— After a solid rookie season last year that included 15 homers and 15 stolen bases, outfielder Oscar Mercado hit just .111 in his first 17 games and was optioned to the alternate training site.

— Rookie reliever James Karinchak, who averaged 22 strikeouts per nine innings in the minors last year, was almost as prolific (16.7) in his first 15 major league appearances this season.

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