The team called up the 25-year-old left-hander Saturday for the first time this season and he delivered a solid, albeit brief, effort that resulted in an 9-3 win over the division rival Minnesota Twins. The victory improved the Indians to 34-31 on the year and brought them into a tie atop the American League Central standings with the Twins.
Merritt lasted only four innings but was pulled prior to the fifth after throwing just 63 pitches, 41 for strikes (65.1 percent). He surrendered three runs, two earned, on seven hits and no walks while striking out two.
Saturday’s start was the third of Merritt’s Major League Baseball career and first since guiding the Indians to a 3-0 win over the Toronto Blue Jays in Game 5 of last season’s American League Championship Series that sent Cleveland to its first World Series appearance since 1997.
The rookie made his MLB debut May 30 last year and appeared in four regular season games, starting one. Merritt, a light-throwing southpaw with excellent command of the strike zone, produced a 1.64 earned run average over 11 regular-season innings and limited opposing batters to a .167 average. Combined with his 4 1/3 inning Game 5 performance and Saturday’s start, Merritt has yet to walk a big-league batter in 19 1/3 total innings.
Prior to his weekend call-up, Merritt has spent most of 2017 with Triple-A Columbus. He’s been effective but not overly impressive — 6-5 with a 3.96 ERA in 12 appearances and 11 starts over 72 2/3 innings with the Clippers and opponents are hitting .288 against him. Merritt’s last minor-league start came June 12 with Single-A Lake County, where he gave up two runs on seven hits and a walk during his seven innings of work.
Merritt arrived in Minnesota with fellow starter Mike Clevinger. The pair was called up to start both games of Saturday’s doubleheader.
Clevinger returns to the Indians after being sent down to Columbus earlier this month. He’s 2-3 in six starts and seven total appearances with Cleveland this year, but the last few did not go well. After spinning seven impressive shutout innings during a May 20 road win over the Houston Astros, the long-haired 26-year-old went 0-2 in his next three starts that lasted a combined 15 2/3 innings and produced a 6.89 ERA.