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Guardians’ Triston McKenzie strikes out 10 in season debut as Cleveland’s rotation gets healthier

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Cleveland Guardians right-hander Triston McKenzie made his season debut on Sunday, throwing a gem in a victory against the Minnesota Twins. McKenzie had been sidelined for the first two months of the season because of a teres major muscle strain in his right shoulder. 

McKenzie, 25, delivered five shutout innings on Sunday, striking out 10 batters and holding the Twins to one hit and one walk. He threw 52 of his 79 pitches for strikes and generated a game-high 15 swinging strikes. True to form, McKenzie’s heater clocked in at 92.9 mph on average, or right in line with the 92.5 mph mark he averaged last season. 

McKenzie started 30 times for the Guardians last season, compiling a 2.96 ERA (127 ERA+) and a 4.32 strikeout-to-walk ratio over the course of 191 innings pitched. His contributions were worth an estimated 4 Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball Reference’s estimates. 

The Guardians and Twins remained scoreless through the first six innings, meaning that McKenzie did not factor into the decision. The Guardians eventually scored two runs — both in the seventh inning on extra-base hits from Josh Naylor and Andrés Giménez — allowing them to secure a 2-1 win as well as a split in the four-game set. 

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The Guardians, who entered Sunday with a 26-32 record and a 4 1/2-game deficit in the American League Central, had lost the first two games of the series. In that respect, getting a split is a positive outcome.

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McKenzie’s return was just part of a rotation shakeup for Cleveland. Earlier this week, the Guardians placed Cal Quantrill on the 15-day injured list because of shoulder inflammation. The Guardians also activated Aaron Civale off the injured list on Friday, and designated Zach Plesac for assignment. (Plesac had been in Triple-A since April.)

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