Justin Masterson’s performance is a growing concern for the Cleveland Indians, and the next step for their opening-day starter is unclear.
Masterson lasted just two-plus innings in a 5-3 loss to the New York Yankees on Monday night. With his fastball rarely topping 90 mph, the right-hander was charged with five runs and six hits.
“Tough night,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Fell behind and threw some pitches that got hit pretty hard.”
Masterson (4-6) walked three, and 24 of his 54 pitches went for strikes. He is 0-2 with an unseemly 9.50 ERA in 18 innings over his last five starts.
Masterson has been pitching with a sore right knee and got extra rest after lasting four innings against Arizona on June 24. Then he failed to retire a batter in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday.
Francona was noncommittal about a potential stint on the disabled list.
“I don’t think we really want to make decisions five minutes after a game,” Francona said. “We’ll sit and talk to Masty a little bit. It’s hard to ask somebody [about an injury] when they’re pitching. The middle of a game’s not the time to do that.”
Masterson’s slump has strained Cleveland’s bullpen. The Indians used five relievers Monday, but they combined for seven shutout innings, striking out seven and walking none.
“You’re always frustrated when you don’t do well,” Masterson said. “Even though I feel like I’m putting forth as much effort as I can, you’re letting down your guys and they’ve been fighting really hard. Like I always say, in here we love each other more than any other team in this league and that makes it a little more tough when it truly is you’re letting down your family a little bit.”
Masterson is a free agent after the season. There was talk about a contract extension in spring training, but the sides were unable to reach an agreement.
For now, Masterson is left searching for answers.
“It’s one of those where it’s a tick [off],” he said. “You’re so close and yet you’re so far away. I felt like tonight was going to be such a great one. Great bullpen session, we got some good things in. It’s just something so tiny can make such a big difference when you’re going 60 feet, 6 inches.”
Nick Swisher and Yan Gomes homered for Cleveland.
Shane Greene (1-0) allowed two runs in six innings for his first major league win. He didn’t allow a hit until Swisher’s two-out homer in the fifth.
The 25-year-old right-hander, called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, was pressed into service after scheduled starter Vidal Nuno was traded to Arizona for righty Brandon McCarthy on Sunday.