Indians ace Corey Kluber on Tuesday was diagnosed with a mild quad strain after he left Monday’s start after only four innings and 60 pitches.
It was announced then that Kluber left with right groin tightness, but an MRI on Tuesday revealed that he sustained a mild strain of one of his quadriceps muscles. Per the club, Kluber is expected to return to game activity in 7-to-10 days, meaning his Cy Young-contending regular season is over but he should be ready for Game 1 of the American League Division Series on Oct. 6.
It’s another level of concern surrounding the Indians’ starting rotation, which has been decimated with injuries in the last month of the season. They’ll be without Carlos Carrasco through October, and Danny Salazar will most likely, at best, be only available out of the bullpen in the ALDS.
The Indians officially clinching the division, along with Kluber’s injury, has shuffled the starting rotation.
Per Francona, Zach McAllister will start Wednesday’s game. Ryan Merritt will then throw Thursday. Josh Tomlin will start either Friday or Sunday’s game in Kansas City. Trevor Bauer will start Saturday’s game.
The game that Tomlin doesn’t start on Friday or Sunday is up in the air. Adam Plutko will “most likely,” throw one of those days. That lineup allows the Indians to rest some pitchers while also lining up at least Bauer in a better way for the American League Division Series, which begins with Game 1 on Oct. 6.
“And this way, our objective is always is to win, but we’ll get to see everybody and we’ll try to manage people’s innings, things like that, and not sacrifice winning,” Francona said. “But we really need to keep our pitchers healthy so they can be productive.”
It does mean the Indians could have a difficult time earning the No. 1 seed in the AL and thus home-field advantage. But considering the injuries already sustained, getting through this week and being better set-up for the postseason is the No. 1 priority.
“If I had my choice, I’d rather play at home,” Francona said. “I think anybody would. But not at the expense of burning out your entire rotation or your bullpen. Having your guys ready to play is the most important thing. I would much prefer to play at home just because it’s easier for your bullpen, you get to hit last. Other than that, we don’t need to overdo anybody. It’s been a long year already and we already have a little bit of attrition. We don’t want more.”