Cleveland manager Terry Francona suggested Saturday that Karinchak will get the chance to vie for the team's closing job in spring training, Joe Noga of The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. "I know [Karinchak's] big goal this spring is to be pitching at the end of the game," Francona said. "We've got to see how our bullpen looks as it starts to come together and what makes our best bullpen."
Francona said that he isn't ready to define roles for his relievers this early in the spring, but Karinchak would seemingly represent the top internal candidate to replace last year's closer, Brad Hand, who signed with Washington this offseason after being non-tendered. Though Karinchak occasionally struggled with walks (14.7 BB%) in 2020 and saw his velocity drop a couple ticks from the year before, he was otherwise excellent in a setup role during his rookie campaign, submitting a 2.67 ERA in 27 innings while striking out 48.6 percent of the batters he faced. At a minimum, Karinchak should be locked into a high-leverage role out of the Cleveland bullpen in 2021, though he would lose some value if Francona prefers to use one of the veterans on the roster with prior closing experience (Nick Wittgren, Blake Parker, Heath Hembree and Bryan Shaw) as the team's main option in save situations.