Francona expects Kluber will be 'fine' by ALDS

Indians' ace sidelined with mild quadriceps strain

Francona expects Kluber will be 'fine' by ALDS

DETROIT -- Indians manager Terry Francona wants everyone to calm down.

The Indians are currently down their top three starters, but ace Corey Kluber is not expected to be sidelined for long. Barring any setbacks, Kluber's mild quadriceps strain should not get in the way of him logging a couple bullpen sessions in the days leading up to the American League Division Series.

"It's not like he's in a wheelchair," Francona said on Wednesday afternoon. "He'll be fine."

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Kluber exited Monday's AL Central-clinching win over the Tigers after four innings due to the quadriceps strain, which was identified in an MRI exam on Tuesday in Cleveland. The right-hander was back with the team in Detroit by Tuesday night and was already feeling improved by Wednesday.

Francona noted that Kluber pitched through some discomfort for part of Monday's outing, but Cleveland decided it was most prudent to remove the starter from the game. The Indians are also missing righties Danny Salazar (right forearm) and Carlos Carrasco (fractured right hand) at the moment, so Kluber will be a critical piece to Cleveland's postseason plans.

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The team announced on Tuesday that Kluber should be ready to return to game action in 7-10 days, putting him on target for a start for Game 1 (Oct. 6) or Game 2 (Oct. 7) in the ALDS. First, the right-hander will need to clear a few hurdles, including bullpen sessions. Francona said there is not a set day yet for Kluber's first mound workout.

"Not until he's ready to do it," Francona said. "That goes completely on how he's doing. I would think he would be able to get a couple in, for sure."

Under the circumstances, the Indians finalized their planned rotation for the regular season's final games. Following Wednesday's bullpen day (with Zach McAllister starting), Cleveland will go with rookie lefty Ryan Merritt (Thursday at Tigers), rookie righty Adam Plutko (Friday at Royals), Trevor Bauer (Saturday at Royals) and Josh Tomlin (Sunday at Royals).

Salazar was scheduled to throw off a mound in a bullpen session on Wednesday and is still a possibility to begin the postseason in the bullpen for Cleveland. If the Indians were to advance deep into the playoffs, there is a slight chance that the team would try to stretch Salazar out to start.

"Obviously, we're up against the calendar," Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said on Monday. "He's still just now throwing bullpens. So, there's only a certain amount of time we have to build him back up. Especially for any sort of early round of the playoffs, if anything it would be out of the bullpen."

All indications are that Cleveland plans on using a three-man rotation for the ALDS, with right-handers Bauer and Tomlin joining Kluber on the staff. Rookie righty Mike Clevinger is available as a fourth option for Cleveland, but Francona reiterated on Wednesday that the team likes him as a multi-inning weapon out of the bullpen.

"For whatever reason, coming out of the bullpen, they've both been more aggressive," said Francona, referring also to Cody Anderson. "I'm glad. You're seeing their best stuff. It hasn't worked real good starting, but they don't have to. You're always trying to take what the players do good and do that more."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for 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.