AL Central-leading Guardians down 2 starters with injuries

CLEVELAND (AP) — Trying to hang on to their slim lead in the AL Central, the Cleveland Guardians lost two starting pitchers to injury on Friday.

Both Zach Plesac (broken hand) and Aaron Civale (forearm inflammation) were placed on the 15-day injured list before Cleveland, which leads Minnesota by just one game, opened a three-game series against the Seattle Mariners.

It’s hardly ideal for a young team in the middle of a pennant race.

Plesac was supposed to start Friday’s opener, but the right-hander was scratched about four hours before the scheduled first pitch. Rookie Cody Morris will make his major league debut against the Mariners.

Guardians manager Terry Francona said Plesac, who has been plagued by a lack of run support this season, fractured his fifth metacarpal when he punched the ground in frustration after giving up a homer against the Mariners last weekend.

Plesac’s palm had been swollen for a few days, and when the team had him undergo imaging tests, the fracture was revealed.

Francona said the “best-case” scenario is Plesac is placed in a splint and only misses one week. The Guardians plan to have him examined soon by renowned hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham.

Plesac is just 3-11 with a 4.39 ERA in 23 starts.

This will be Civale’s third trip to the injured list this season.

The right-hander missed time with a wrist sprain and then with a strained glute. He’s 2-6 with a 5.40 ERA in 16 games.

“He’s had a lot of things that have kind of gotten in the way,” Francona said.

Civale had initially feared he had something wrong with his elbow and was relieved to learn it was just swelling in his forearm.

“It’s musculature,” Francona said. “But when that happens, you know you get some swelling in that area, it can set off whether it’s the nerve or whatever. It kind of makes it a little angry in there.”

Francona said the plan is for the medication to take effect before Civale throws again. He’ll be eligible to return on Sept. 14.

The 25-year-old Morris was activated from the 60-day injured list Thursday. The right-hander had been sidelined with a back strain suffered during spring training. At Triple-A Columbus, he posted a 2.35 ERA in six appearances.

Morris threw 60 pitches in his last outing for the Clippers, and Francona said he’ll be monitored closely in his debut.

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