GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Don’t pencil in Corey Kluber as the Cleveland Indians’ opening day starter just yet.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona said Sunday the team will take a slow approach this spring with Kluber, a workhorse for the Indians a year ago. Kluber has started the opener the past two seasons, but Francona isn’t ready to say if the right-hander will get the nod on April 3 when the AL champions play at Texas.
“We’ve told Kluber because we are slowing him down a little bit, if he’s not ready for Game 1, we can adjust,” Francona said. “And we’re more than willing to, because there’s a lot at stake over the course of the year. We all know opening day is a big deal, but we want him to position himself where he’s ready to log as many innings as we need.”
Kluber pitched 215 innings during the regular season last year and then another 34 1/3 innings while helping the Indians reach the World Series for the first time since 1997. During the postseason, Kluber started on short rest three times, including twice in the World Series against the Chicago Cubs.
The Indians’ plan with Kluber is to have him pitch in simulated games before Cactus League play opens. Pitching coach Mickey Callaway has a program that will have Kluber ready to pitch three innings in his first spring outing, which won’t happen until March 6.
If he starts the season opener, Kluber would join Justin Masterson, CC Sabathia, Bartolo Colon and Dennis Martinez as the only Cleveland pitchers in the last 40 years to start three straight openers.
Kluber went 18-9 last season with a 3.14 ERA and finished third in AL Cy Young Award voting. The 30-year-old ace is 58-44 with a 3.44 ERA in six seasons with the Indians.
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