By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer
CLEVELAND: It won’t be quite like an actor showing up for work without having read the script or run any lines, but Corey Kluber is ready to return to the Indians’ rotation without the benefit of a rehab assignment.
That might be OK if he had missed 10-12 days, but Kluber hasn’t pitched since Aug. 5 because of a sprained middle finger on his pitching hand.
He threw a simulated game on Monday and was pronounced ready to face major-league hitters. It is neither the Tribe’s fault nor Kluber’s that he won’t be able to strengthen his arm by pitching in games in the Tribe farm system.
Minor-league seasons end today, so the only place Kluber can pitch is under the glare of big-league lights. But manager Terry Francona has an idea.
‘‘He did real well today,’’ he said. ‘‘[Scott] Kazmir’s day is Friday. We’ll keep him in that spot and have Kluber ‘piggyback’ on his start since he’s not stretched out.’’
In effect, Francona will have two starters to face the Mets in the opening game of the series at Progressive Field. Kazmir will be first and pitch an undetermined number of innings, probably no more than five. Kluber will follow him and either pitch the rest of the game or go as far as he can before getting help from the bullpen.
No problem? Maybe.
But if Kazmir just doesn’t have it, Kluber might be forced into the game in the third inning. How long will he be permitted to go? That probably depends on how many pitches he throws, if it’s an easy or stressful outing, which team is ahead and by how much.
Francona probably isn’t worrried, because he will have a 15-man bullpen at his disposal, with eight relievers having been summoned from Columbus.
After Friday, Kazmir will take his regular turn, and Kluber will start the next day.
‘‘I think this has a chance to help the team win, help both pitchers and the bullpen,’’ Francona said.
If that pattern continues, Francona will have to use a six-man rotation or remove a starter form the rotation.
‘‘It’s a little too soon to know what we’re going to do that far in advance,’’ Francona said. ‘‘After we get through it [twice around the rotation], we’ll see where we’re at. I don’t think we’ll go through the rest of the year like that [with six starters]. Maybe one or two turns.’’
Josh Tomlin has recovered from elbow reconstruction surgery and will be activated. However, he has no specific function.
‘‘That’s something we have to work through,’’ Francona said. ‘‘We’ve got him stretched out. Because the minor-league season is over, there’s nowhere for him to pitch, so we’re bringing him here.’’
Even though Tomlin has been judged ready to pitch, the nature of the surgery demands that he be treated with care. That means Francona won’t use him in the bullpen, because he doesn’t want Tomlin throwing, sitting, then throwing again multiple times in a game.
Nor is there room for Tomlin in the rotation, though Francona said earlier that if he needed a spot starter, Tomlin could fill that role.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.