CLEVELAND — The Indians are entering their most crucial weekend of the season with a key series against the division-leading Minnesota Twins, but they'll likely have to play it without All-Star closer Brad Hand.

Hand has been down for a few days with what manager Terry Francona termed as a "tired arm" when he spoke to reporters in Anaheim. Hand was sent for an MRI, which came back clean. It's a good sign for Hand's availability in the long run, but he'll need at least a few more days before he'll be able to return.

There is still some ambiguity regarding the exact nature of the injury and the timeline for when Hand can return. But for at least the next few days and likely the weekend, the Indians will be without him.

"He’s going to throw again on Sunday," Francona said. "Leading up to that they’re obviously doing a bunch in the training room. The idea is that when he picks a ball up again, we want him to feel great. He’s kinda champing at the bit, which is a great sign. But the medical people really feel strongly that if we want him to be good, this is the way to do it. So sometimes you have to sit back and abide by their knowledge and respect that."

Hand earned his third consecutive All-Star selection — first in the American League — this season but hasn't been the same pitcher since, with a 5.68 ERA in 19 innings. He's also dealt with a velocity drop — his average fastball velocity on Aug. 24 was 92 mph, four days later it dropped to 90.6 and 90.3 in back-to-back appearances.

Although Hand's velocity has returned somewhat since then, there has been a clear difference in the pre- and post-break versions of the Indians closer.

Hand said he hasn't played catch in a few days to try to allow for some down time before ramping back up.

“I mean, I didn’t know what was going on," he said Friday. "It’s been kind of bugging me for a little bit, and we tried to treat it a little bit and it just wasn’t bouncing back. It’s like those first two games in Minnesota playing catch I felt good and then pitching that game I felt all right and then the next day I just didn’t feel good that first day in LA.

"We just figured we’d get it checked out, see what’s going on, and it was a relief to find out everything was OK.”

Roster moves

The Indians added reliever James Karinchak and outfielder Bradley Zimmer to the active roster on Friday.

Karinchak has put up video-game numbers in the minors this season. Between Triple-A, Double-A and a few innings in the rookie league, he has combined to post a 2.67 ERA, but what's eye-popping is that he's essentially struck everybody out he's faced — 74 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings for a 22.0 K/9 rate.

"The reason we’ve got him now is there’s 15 games left," Francona said. "That potentially gives us a chance to pitch him in a couple games — maybe not with the bases loaded and two outs, that type of situation — [but] to see if he could possibly help us down the stretch. At worst, what it does is it gives us a read on where this kid is going into spring training."

Pitcher Josh Smith was designated for assignment to make room for Karinchak on the 40-man roster.

Zimmer has missed nearly the entire 2019 season recovering from last year's shoulder surgery and an oblique issue that flared up during his rehab this summer.

"More than likely off the bench, utilize his speed," Francona said when asked how Zimmer might fit onto the roster. "Saying that, I’ve said a lot of things and then a day later somebody’s hurt. But more than likely [he'll] come off the bench and try to help us with his speed."

Surgery

Outfielder Tyler Naquin underwent right knee reconstruction on Thursday in Houston to repair a torn ACL and lateral meniscus. The surgery was performed by Dr. Walter Lowe.

Naquin was told he can be expected to return to game activity in seven to nine months. Naquin this season hit .288 with a .792 OPS, 10 home runs, 19 doubles and 34 RBI in 294 plate appearances.

Ryan Lewis can be reached at rlewis@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.