CLEVELAND — James Karinczak doesn’t consider his long rehab stint delayed until Sunday’s call-up to the Rangers to be the toughest time of his career in Cleveland.
The right-hander said the designation belongs to the fourth grand slam he surrendered to Gio Urshela in a 10-9 American League loss to the New York Yankees on Sept. 30, 2020.
“That was probably the hardest moment,” Karinchak said before the Guardians hosted the New York Yankees. “That was definitely a mental setback, but I’d say the biggest mental hurdle was definitely the comeback after the Gio Urshela homer in the playoffs.”
That home run helped end the postseason for Cleveland, who had suffered a 12-3 loss to the Yankees the day before.
Karinchak, 26, a starter for the Guardians, has been on the injured list most of this year with a right upper back strain. He was activated Saturday and optioned to Triple-A Columbus.
Pitching coach Carl Willis said Sunday that Karinchak could remain in Columbus a little longer, but his call up Sunday was necessary when left-hander Anthony Gose was placed on the 15-day injured list with a strained left triceps.
“Yesterday was really the first day we figured anything out,” Willis said of Gose. “There is hope and I think the initial prognosis is not serious. Now these are things that sometimes take a few days to really show for what they really are. Hopefully it’s two to three days and he’ll feel better, we can start a program to get him back soon.
“Unfortunately we had to go the IL route just because with doubleheaders and the schedule the way it is, we can’t go a little bit a day.”
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Karinchak spent a month in rehab in Columbus, posting a 5.73 ERA in 11 innings over 12 games. He allowed 10 hits and seven earned runs while striking out 17.
“I think his last three outings have been really, really good,” Willis said of Karinchak. “He continued to improve and started to show signs of being his old self. I don’t know that it would necessarily have been recalled today… It was very close.
“We just wanted to see him maybe be a little bit more consistent. But it’s definitely trending in a very positive direction.”
Cleveland Guardians re-claim Oscar Mercado, make other bullpen moves
The Guardians made several other roster moves before the game. They optioned the contract of right-hander Alex Young from Triple-A Columbus, optioned right-hander Anthony Castro to Columbus and designated left-hander Kirk McCarty for assignment.
Later in the day, the Guardians reclaimed outfielder Oscar Mercado, who was designated for assignment on June 21 and claimed by the Philadelphia Phillies on June 27. Mercado got an at-bat with the Phillies on June 30 and was then designated for assignment the following day.
Mercado will join the Guardians in Detroit, where they open a three-game series on Monday. To make room, right-hander Yohan Ramirez was designated for assignment.
Young, like Karinchak, is making his Guardians debut after spending the season in Columbus. He went 3-0 with a 3.14 ERA in 28⅔ innings of 27 relief outings, giving up 24 hits and 10 earned runs with six walks and 43 strikeouts. In his last seven outings since June 12, he had thrown 6⅓ shutout innings.
James Karinchak was “blessed and excited” to return to the Cleveland Guardians
Karinchak said he couldn’t “put it into words” what returning to the Guardians meant to him.
“It’s really exciting, I guess, that the opportunity is finally here, so I’m blessed and excited to get back out there.”
In late March, an MRI revealed a mild hamstring strain, and Karinchak was sidelined for seven to 10 days. That turned out to be an optimistic projection, as Karinchak said he had “a few unfortunate things” that set the schedule back.
“I’m healthy now and it’s a blessing and all the coaches and everyone who brought me here, I’m very grateful,” he said.
“The biggest part is knowing mentally that you can throw a baseball hard again. That’s how I got hurt. So to get back to that mental threshold to be able to confidently throw a baseball as hard as I can, and obviously that’s what I do every day, I think that’s the biggest part.”
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Karinchak said he didn’t get to that point until mid-April.
Last season for Cleveland, Karinchak went 7-4 with a 4.07 ERA in 60 games (55⅓ innings). After a strong first half in which he went 6-2 with a 2.52 ERA in 41 games (39⅓ innings), he collapsed in the second half with a 7.88 ERA in 19 games (16 innings, .270 batting average allowed) and was optioned in Colombo on August 28.
Asked if either pitch stands out for him now, he said, “I’m confident in both, so I’m excited to see what I can do.”
Selected in the ninth round of the 2017 NBA draft, Karinchak doesn’t know if he’s back to where he was in the first half of 2021.
“I mean, I’m confident in my abilities right now and we’ll find out soon, right?” he said.
This article originally appeared in the Akron Beacon Journal: Guardians LHP Anthony Gose placed in IL, James Karinchak up