DETROIT -- Corey Kluber changed into street clothes and quickly exited the visitors' clubhouse at Comerica Park on Tuesday night, declining comment and deferring questions to Indians manager Terry Francona.
This came after the results of an MRI exam earlier in the day effectively ended his regular season. After leaving Monday's division-clinching win over the Tigers after four innings, Kluber was diagnosed with a mild strain of one of his quadriceps muscles. His timetable to return is 7-10 days.
Barring any setbacks, Kluber could still start in Game 1 (Oct. 6) or Game 2 (Oct. 7) in the American League Division Series.
"It's a heck of a lot better than it could've been," Francona said of the injury. "This will give him a chance to hopefully have a bullpen session or two. Hopefully, it'll maybe even help him. I think it's certainly not bad news."
The Indians could certainly use some good news when it comes to the rotation.
Kluber's setback comes after the Indians already lost right-handers Danny Salazar (strained right forearm) and Carlos Carrasco (fractured right hand) to injury this month. Salazar has resumed throwing off a mound and might be an option as a reliever for the playoffs. Carrasco is done for the year.
With those arms sidelined, Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin are Cleveland's top three arms for the ALDS. Rookie righty Mike Clevinger is the team's fourth option, but he will move back to the bullpen for now, following a rough two-inning performance in Tuesday's 12-0 loss to Detroit.
Clevinger was relieved to learn the news about Kluber.
"With the adversity this team's seen this year, that's a huge sigh of relief," Clevinger said. "Not all of these stories have ended as happy as that one. It's a good break for him to have to get ready for the postseason."
Just 24 hours earlier, Kluber stood off to the side in the clubhouse, goggles on and soaked in champagne. The Indians' ace has watched his team overcome an assortment of obstacles this season, but none stopped Cleveland from capturing an AL Central title.
During the party, Kluber also declined to discuss his injury. The pitcher did, however, agree to talk about how, once again, the Tribe won in the face of adversity.
"I think it's a testament to the kind of guys we have in here," Kluber said. "Different people said different things about us throughout the course of the year, but I think the guys in here never stopped believing, and I think that's really important."
In 32 starts this season for the Indians, Kluber has gone 18-9 with a 3.14 ERA and 227 strikeouts in 215 innings, putting him in contention for his second career AL Cy Young Award. More important for Cleveland is having him healthy and primed for the postseason.
Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway, the team's medical staff and Kluber will meet in the coming days to plot out a plan for the pitcher leading up to the ALDS.
"It wasn't a ton, so that's good," said Callaway, referring to Kluber's timetable for a return to game action. "I know it was mild and he should be OK at some point."
Kluber logged only 60 pitches in Monday's start, in which he allowed two runs on a homer by J.D. Martinez in the second inning. Kluber surrendered five hits and left his abbreviated effort with three strikeouts and one walk. During the fourth inning, the Tigers loaded the bases with one out against Kluber, who had a meeting on the mound with Callaway.
Dan Otero began warming up in the bullpen, but Kluber remained on the hill and escaped the jam unscathed. Otero then took over on the mound for Kluber at the start of the fifth inning.
"I think we were hopeful that he'd be OK," Francona said. "But, again, when a guy's out there competing, you don't know how much they're really hurting."
The bullpen picked Kluber up with five combined innings, while the offense did enough to hold off Detroit's in-game push. In the end, Cody Allen struck out Tigers outfielder Cameron Maybin for the game's final out, setting off an on-field party that dragged late into the night in the clubhouse.
"You don't like to see that," Tribe reliever Andrew Miller said of Kluber's injury. "He's as good of a pitcher as there is in baseball. The assumption is that they're being extra careful. We need him. There's no doubt about it. We've lost some guys. At the end of the day, it doesn't matter what you had or what the situation is. You figure it out with what you have."
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.