Holding Kluber for Game 2 has its benefits

Indians wanted to give ace extra rest, and he'll be available for potential Game 5

Holding Kluber for Game 2 has its benefits

CLEVELAND -- Corey Kluber gets it.

He understood why he was sitting in front of a microphone in the interview room Thursday, talking about facing the Red Sox in Game 2 of the American League Division Series on Friday (4:30 p.m. ET, TBS), while Trevor Bauer prepared himself for the series opener.

Game Date Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 6 CLE 5, BOS 4 video
Gm 2 Oct. 7 CLE 6, BOS 0 video
Gm 3 Oct. 10 CLE 4, BOS 3 video

Cleveland won Game 1 of the best-of-five ALDS, 5-4, and now Kluber has a chance to give the Indians a commanding 2-0 lead in the series with a chance to clinch in Boston.

He gets waiting an extra day for his postseason debut, despite being the unquestioned ace of the Indians' staff, despite having not pitched since leaving his start in Detroit a week and a half ago with a mild quadriceps strain. He gets it, in part because he knows he also gets a potential Game 5 on regular rest.

Even though Kluber doesn't open the series, there's a chance he'll be the pitcher to end it.

"I don't think there was disappointment," Kluber said. "We talked about it as a group and came to the decision that if it comes to a point where somebody has to pitch on short rest [in Game 4], Trevor is better equipped to do that."

Kluber's comments are his first since he strained his quadriceps on Sept. 26, the game the Indians went on to win and clinch their first division title since 2007. Until Thursday, he stayed out of the discussion on his return and his role, instead concentrating on making sure he'd be ready to pitch in the postseason.

Kluber on playoff debut

"He almost beat me to the ballpark," Indians manager Terry Francona said about Kluber's rehab schedule, "which is hard to do. It's safe to say he was the first one here for about 10 days."

Even so, Francona and pitching coach Mickey Calloway wanted to be careful.

"I'm still glad we did it the way we did it," Francona said, "because I think it allowed him to have that second bullpen [session], so that he could kind of get after it so he knows, when he goes out there, he doesn't have to feel his way through it. I also wanted to get there in a way where he understood, too. So, we had multiple conversations about it, but I think he's in a really good place, and I feel better about it."

The side benefit, Francona cited, was an opportunity for Kluber to rest, and not just his quad. He was on track to throw 220 or more innings for a third consecutive year, something no Cleveland pitcher has done since Rick Waits from 1978-80. Kluber was throwing some of his best baseball in September, but the bigger goal was to get him ready for October.

"I think it's going to be good for him," Francona said.

Kluber was in more of a wait-and-see outlook.

"I think it potentially could," he said. "My body feels good right now. I think the 10 days did other parts of my body good, as far as not necessarily pitching in a game -- skipping a start, so to speak. We won't know until we get out there tomorrow, but I'm not worried about it."

Kluber on facing Price in Game 2

By getting Game 2, Kluber also gets a familiar matchup -- not just against the Red Sox, his foe from Opening Day, but David Price. Including this season's opener, they've met three times since Price joined the Tigers at the 2014 non-waiver Trade Deadline. The Indians are 0-3 in those matchups, with Price getting the win over Kluber in two of them.

Their Opening Day matchup came in the freezing cold of April. They'll have a warmer setting for Friday.

"Obviously he's a great pitcher," Kluber said. "I think when you're facing somebody that's a pitcher of his quality, I think that mistakes might happen more, but I think that goes back to my thought process of taking a pitch at a time and trying not to get caught up in the moment or who you're pitching against. Most of it is trying to go out and execute your game plan."

Jason Beck has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.