CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – The Cleveland Indians’ ALDS opponent will not have the luxury of starting their ace in Game 1 of the division series. Terry Francona is simply choosing not to.
Instead, it will be Trevor Bauer who starts the opening game of the opening round for the second straight year, followed by Cy Young front-runner Corey Kluber in Game 2, and Carlos Carrasco in Game 3.
Francona named weather as a potential factor in throwing off the date of games, but the main reason for his decision was keeping Kluber on his vaunted routine.
“Not that you go into a game thinking you’re going to lose, but if you do, you have your ace coming back,” the skipper said. “The biggest thing was keeping him on his 5-day. That was really important to Kluber. That was really the only way we could do it.
“Again, you don’t want to put the cart ahead of the horse, but if you’re fortunate enough to win in four, you have your ace ready for the next series.”
Josh Tomlin is set to start Game 4, if necessary, but will be available out of the bullpen in the first three games. Francona is also carrying starters Danny Salazar and Mike Clevinger on the roster, allowing for the flexibility that the manager had alluded to in days prior.
The decision by the two-time World Series winning manager to go away from his ace in the opening game will be perceived as risky, and though there is risk, the belief is that there is not a large drop off between Kluber and Bauer.
Bauer has grown into one of the best pitchers in the American League and will certainly garner a few lower-place Cy Young votes. Through two months of the season, the righty had the worst ERA in baseball, but righted the ship completely.
That improvement is what allowed Francona to make the decision.
“I mean for him to get the ball in Game 1 speaks volumes,” Francona said. “I think sometimes we lose track because we’re with guys all the time, but five years ago, the growth he’s made, not just being a teammate but as a pitcher, he’s come a long way and we’re proud of him. And he’s continuing to work and he takes feedback, he asks for feedback.”
On Sunday, Bauer joked he hoped to pitch in Games ‘1, 2, 3, 4 and 5,’ but was serious in his love for pitching in big games.
“Yeah I’m looking forward to it, hopefully see a couple ticks of added velocity,” he said. “I’d expect there to probably be at 94, 95 pretty consistently again. And then just every inning is super important. Go out there like a closer and try to close each inning out and then whatever I run out of gas, there’s plenty of people to pick me up. It’s fun because everything takes on such a big importance and such a big meaning.”