CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – Indians ace Corey Kluber will return to the starting rotation for his next start, which could be as soon as Thursday, Manager Terry Francona said on Saturday.
The team will have to make a decision on who to move from the rotation with the return of Kluber, as young righty Mike Clevinger has proven to be dependable, with three regular starters struggling at points in the first two months.
“I think for right now, I’d like to talk to Chris (Antonetti), (Mike Chernoff) and those guys and (Pitching Coach Mickey Callaway) a little bit more, but I think we have a pretty good plan in place for what to do,” Francona said. “He’s going to pitch for us his next start. Most likely, it’ll be Thursday.
“So other than that, we have so many days off coming off after that point that I’d like to sit with Mickey and the other guys and kind of map out what’s in our best interest, putting some parameters in place like just who we’re playing, the days off, all those things. We haven’t fit all those things together yet, but he will pitch for us.”
Kluber was placed on the 10-day disabled list on May 3rd, 24 days ago, with a strained lower back. He had a 5.06 ERA (21 earned runs in 37 1/3 innings) in six starts, with 41 strikeouts and 13 walks.
On Friday, Kluber tossed five scoreless innings in a Double-A rehab start, allowing just one hit over the course of 15 batters. Francona said the righty threw 15 extra pitches in the bullpen following his outing, on top of the 47 he threw in game action. Of the 47, 33 pitches were strikes.
The back injury was made known by Kluber during the team’s second series on their first road trip in Arizona, though Francona said it could have flared up prior.
The Tribe skipper said the team and the pitcher tried to manage the pain before it became too much for Kluber to bear and still be competitive.
“I saw it firsthand with him. We see it all the time,” Francona said. “When he came off the field in Detroit, when Mickey made that trip to the mound, he came off and he said, ‘This isn’t good.’ So when he came off the field, I went down into the tunnel with him and I could tell. It had just gotten to the point that something needed to be done.”
Francona added that there was a line to be walked, as his ace could still contribute through the injury, but that it was not fair to anybody to let Kluber pitch through the pain.
“I think you guys would probably be surprised at the number of guys that every day they go out there and there’s something going on that if you didn’t play with every nick, nobody would ever play,” the manager continued. “But there’s a balance there that can be hard sometimes. Because I think on a bad day Kluber can kind of be respectable. That’s what’s hard.”