CLEVELAND: A simulated game separates Justin Masterson from inactivity and the Tribe bullpen.
“We met with Masty,” manager Terry Francona said Saturday. “What we want him to do is throw a simulated game, a couple of innings. We’d like to do it off the game mound to amp up the intensity.
“We want to do it after [today’s] game or on Monday, depending on some logistical things. Then we’ll give him a couple of days and put him in our bullpen.”
With the minor-league season having ended early in September, there is nowhere Masterson can pitch to build up his arm strength to work six or more innings. Consequently, starting is out for now.
“It’s unrealistic for him to go deep into games,” Francona said. “But hopefully he can impact our games out of the bullpen.”
What happens to Masterson if the Indians reach the playoffs? Will he return to the rotation, even though he hasn’t pitched since Sept. 2? Will he stay in the bullpen? (He’s been a reliever before.) Or will the strained oblique that has stymied him for the better part of a month disqualify him from the postseason roster?
UNGLUED TO THE TV — After the Indians beat the Astros on Friday night, Francona did not spend his time watching every second of what was left of the Rays’ 18-inning win over the Orioles.
But he was paying attention to the outcome of a game involving two wild-card contenders.
“I was trying to figure out how both teams could lose,” he said. “When we win, we’re fine. If we lose, we have to hope.”
Francona purposely did not watch the marathon between the Orioles and Rays.
“I try to get away [from baseball] a little bit,” he said. “I was watching reruns of 24. I’ve been waking up at 2 in the morning to gunfire and hearing [series character] Jack Bauer screaming.”
WISHING HIM THE BEST — Former Tribe starter John Farrell’s Red Sox clinched the Eastern Division title Friday night, and his lodge brother, Francona, sent him congratulatory wishes.
“There’s a group of guys over there that I’m fond of,” Francona said, referring to Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and a few others. “John is one of my closest friends, not just in baseball but in life.”
Farrell and Francona met when both played for the Tribe in 1991.
TRIVIA PURSUIT — The ERA of the Indians’ rotation in the second half (59 games) is 3.20, the lowest after the All-Star Game since the Tribe posted a 2.82 ERA in 1972. … According to Elias Sports Bureau, going into Saturday night’s game against the Astros, the Tribe’s record against current sub-.500 teams is 48-18, best in the majors in that category. The remaining eight games on the Indians’ schedule are against teams that have lost more than half their games.
— Sheldon Ocker