CLEVELAND — Alex White’s promising debut season in the big leagues has been put on hold, possibly for the rest of the year.
White, who was placed on the disabled list Saturday, is expected to miss at least two months after an MRI revealed a sprained ligament in his right middle finger.
The right-hander, who was Cleveland’s first-round draft choice in 2009, sustained the injury while throwing a slider in the third inning Friday, leaving after the inning was complete for what could be his final appearance of the season at Progressive Field.
“It’s very disappointing,” said White, who was 1-0 with a 3.76 ERA in his first two big league starts prior to Friday. “I don’t want to use the word heartbreaking, but it really is. It’s been a long road to get here, and I want to be part of what’s going on here.”
According to head trainer Lonnie Soloff, White will begin playing catch in three to four weeks, but the Indians will not rush him back, which puts the rest of White’s season — at least in the majors — in jeopardy.
“We want to be as conservative as possible in Alex’s case,” Soloff said.
Adding more disappointment for White is the fact that he feels as though he can still compete. He can still throw his fastball, but can’t use his normal grip on breaking pitches, such as the slider he threw Friday.
“It feels OK,” he said. “The swelling’s down. I can still throw with velocity. I think that’s the frustrating part. I think I can pitch, but at this point, we just have to be safe and get it better.”
Soloff and manager Manny Acta came to the mound after White injured the finger, but did not remove him once White had thrown warmup pitches.
“He was adamant about his ability to stay in the game and compete,” Soloff said. “It speaks to Alex’s toughness and his competitiveness.”
There is one positive for White, with the Indians not fearing this is a similar situation to right-hander Adam Miller — a former top pitching prospect in the organization — whose career was sidetracked by a multitude of surgeries on his right middle finger.
“In Miller’s case, there were other complicating factors that are not present with Alex,” Soloff said.
Right-hander Mitch Talbot is set to leave the disabled list and will replace White in the rotation. White was filling in for Talbot but wasn’t a lock to return to the minors once Talbot was ready for activation.
Soloff said Grady Sizemore (bruised right knee) would increase his baseball activities over the next three days.
Sizemore has begun to take batting practice but has not played since sustaining the injury May 10 on a slide into second base. The Indians are hopeful that he will be ready to leave the disabled list for the series opener at Tampa Bay on Friday.
Add another milestone to Josh Tomlin’s young career.
The right-hander, who is the only Indians pitcher to last at least five innings in each of his first 21 career big league starts, is also the first Cleveland pitcher since the earned run became official in 1913 to start the season with nine quality starts (six innings, three runs or fewer).
Tomlin, 26, was tied for the major league lead with six wins through Saturday and led the majors with a 0.82 WHIP. Opponents are batting just .103 (3-for-29) off him with runners in scoring position, second in the American League behind New York’s Freddy Garcia (.098) through Saturday.
The Indians wrap up the homestand with a three-game series against Boston that begins tonight at 7:10.
Justin Masterson (5-2, 2.52 ERA) opens the set, opposing RHP Clay Buchholz (4-3, 3.42), while Fausto Carmona (3-4, 4.76) goes for the Indians on Tuesday (7:05), the Red Sox countering with RHP Josh Beckett (3-1, 1.73).
Talbot (1-0, 1.46) starts for Cleveland in the finale Wednesday (12:05), while Boston goes with LHP Jon Lester (6-1, 3.68).
Cleveland swept the Red Sox in a three-game series at Progressive Field on April 5-7.
- Chad Huffman had a big game in Triple-A Columbus’ 11-8 win over Durham on Saturday, going 3-for-5 with his sixth homer, three RBIs and two runs. Huffman, who was claimed off waivers from the Yankees at the end of last season, was hitting .273 with 26 RBIs in 39 games through Saturday.
- lRight-hander Paolo Espino won his first start for Double-A Akron on Saturday, allowing a run on three hits, while striking out six over five innings of an 8-1 victory over Altoona. Espino, a 10th-round draft pick in 2006, is 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in
10 appearances for the Aeros after being demoted from Columbus.
- The Indians drew 99,086 fans during the three-game series with Cincinnati. It is the highest attendance figure for a three-game series at Progressive Field since Sept. 19-21, 2008, against Detroit.
- The Indians entered Sunday tied with Toronto for the American League’s best team ERA (2.99).
- Josh Judy made his big league debut, pitching a scoreless ninth inning and allowing two hits while getting his first major league strikeout.