CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Indians manager Terry Francona didn’t openly say Cleveland was pitching Corey Kluber on Tuesday so he’d match-up against the Detroit Tigers later this month.
But with how he explained it, the skipper didn’t have to.
The Indians could have chosen to start their ace on Monday — which would have put Kluber in line with his normal rest — but instead, the club decided to bump him back a day following Thursday’s off day.
By doing so, the right-handed hurler will be able to face the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals, the two teams directly behind Cleveland in the American League Central standings, in a pair of upcoming series later this month.
Conversely, if Kluber was bumped into Monday’s slot, the Tigers would miss the righty’s turn in the rotation — at least with how things currently line up — during their series on Sept. 16-18.
That would be less than ideal for Cleveland, who currently holds a 4.5 game lead on Detroit in the AL Central standings.
“Just looking forward, if you kind of take it another couple weeks, you’ll probably see it makes sense,” Francona said of the team’s decision.
Kluber enters the final month of the 2016 season as one of the frontrunners for the American League Cy Young Award. The righty’s 2.09 ERA over his first nine starts since the All-Star Break gives his club a clear advantage every time he takes the mound.
Given his current roll, the desire to have him match-up against two division rivals down the stretch is obvious.
In the meantime, the Indians’ choice to slot their ace into Tuesday’s contest against the Houston Astros leaves Monday’s starter a bit up in the air.
With Cleveland skipping Josh Tomlin’s next start — and potentially removing him from the rotation all together during the final month — coupled with expanded rosters, the team is leaving themselves a few alternatives to choose from in the three-game series opener at Progressive Field.
“I think we’re still going to wait and see how we get there,” Francona said. “It’s going to be more likely than not almost like a bullpen game. I think we can do that because it’s September. So regardless of who starts, I don’t think you’re going to see them go very deep.”
Mike Clevinger, who has been pitching out of the bullpen recently for Cleveland, is a candidate to at least log some innings on Monday night, but the club doesn’t want to stray too far from the appealing idea of keeping him in the bullpen down the stretch.
“He’ll probably get as lengthened out as anybody,” Francona said. “Whether he starts or not, we’ll see. We’re going to have to monitor that, too. If you throw 2-3 innings, you’re not going to be available the very next day. We’re going to have to watch that a little bit.”
Cody Anderson, who was called up when rosters expanded on Thursday, is another possible candidate to receive a few innings in a possible bullpen day scenario, but the righty has been working exclusively out of the bullpen recently at Triple-A Columbus.
“We’ll keep an eye on him, Francona said. “The hardest challenge is with Cody is we don’t want to get him up and down. So we should have enough pitchers as we go where we don’t have to do that kind of stuff and if we ever have a need, we can go get somebody the very next day.”
If nothing else, the flexibility of an expanded September bullpen gives them quite a few options heading into Monday. Beyond that, no final decisions have been made.