DETROIT: The Indians expect ace Corey Kluber to be ready for the American League Division Series and consider his timetable to return, for the most part, good news compared to what could have been.
Kluber was diagnosed Tuesday night with a mild strain of a quadriceps muscle after his Monday start in which he threw only 60 pitches before being pulled. He was given a timetable to return to baseball activity of 7-to-10 days, which puts him right up against Game 1 of the ALDS on Oct. 6 or Game 2 on Oct. 7.
Indians manager Terry Francona confirmed on Wednesday that the club is confident Kluber will be ready to throw a bullpen session or two prior to the beginning of the postseason.
“It’s a heck of a lot better than it could’ve been,” Francona said. “I think we were hopeful that he’d be OK but, again, when a guy’s out there competing, you don’t know how much they’re really hurting. But this will give him a chance to hopefully have a bullpen session or two. Hopefully, it’ll maybe even help him. I think it’s certainly not bad news.”
Kluber’s regular season is done but, barring a setback, it doesn’t appear his postseason availability will be affected.
“He pitched four innings with this,” Francona said. “We just kind of wanted to get him out of there because we didn’t want it to get worse. It’s not like he’s in a wheelchair. He’ll be fine.”
With Kluber out, the Indians have lined up the rest of the regular-season rotation, with Ryan Merritt starting on Thursday, Adam Plutko Friday, Trevor Bauer Saturday and Josh Tomlin finishing the regular season — barring a postponement — on Sunday.
Although the starters are set, the rest of the pitching staff continues to be shuffled. Mike Clevinger, Tuesday’s starter, is heading back to the bullpen for at least the remainder of the regular season.
The move potentially means two things as it pertains to the postseason. The first is that it could increase the odds that the Indians use a three-man rotation, at least in the ALDS, with Kluber, Bauer and Tomlin. Pitching coach Mickey Callaway has previously discussed Kluber and Bauer being able to throw on short rest.
It also confirms the Indians’ confidence that Kluber will be ready to start Game 1 or Game 2. Callaway added that, if needed, Clevinger is stretched out enough that a 1-2 week absence wouldn’t negate his being able to start a game.
The Indians have pieced together their pitching staff for the last several weeks. The puzzle is still being rearranged and an ongoing project.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/RyanLewisABJ