CLEVELAND -- Another day, another rotation issue for the Indians. This time, it was Trevor Bauer's hobby of building drones that has cost Cleveland at a critical time.
The Indians announced before Friday's 2-0 win in Game 1 that Bauer sustained a non-baseball-related injury to his right pinkie finger that required multiple stitches. As a result, Cleveland has flip-flopped Bauer and Josh Tomlin in the planned rotation against the Blue Jays in the American League Championship Series.
Bauer, who originally was supposed to start Game 2 on Saturday (4 p.m. ET on TBS, as well as Sportsnet and RDS in Canada.), will now start Game 3 on Monday (8 p.m. ET) in Toronto. Tomlin will start in place of Bauer with a 1-0 series lead at Progressive Field. The change will give Bauer 10 days of rest between starts, and an additional three days off after injuring his pitching hand on Thursday night.
Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said that Bauer injured his pinkie finger while repairing one of his drones. The pitcher designs and builds drones, which he flies in his spare time.
"Has it never happened to you guys? Drone maintenance?" Indians manager Terry Francona quipped. "You could've given me a lot of guesses and I wouldn't have come up with this one."
Francona was able to joke about the situation because it is not considered serious. Bauer played catch with his finger covered during Cleveland's pregame workout on Friday, and he will be treated in the coming days by hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham, who will accompany the team to Toronto. The laceration, which is on the outside of the pitcher's pinkie, is not expected to impact any of Bauer's pitches.
According to Francona, Graham expressed confidence that Bauer's finger would be healed enough to allow him to start on Monday. Bauer will not be permitted to have any kind of covering on his finger during his start against the Blue Jays.
"The biggest challenge is just making sure that they can get this thing closed up enough where it doesn't bleed," Francona explained. "We're fortunate that we have Dr. Graham, who is here, and he's even traveling with us. That'll be really helpful. He was really optmistic that, given the extra 48 hours, he'll be good to go."
Bauer's teammates were able to find humor in the situation.
"I laughed," Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "If anybody has covered Bauer or talked to Bauer, it's kind of funny. He's a big, dumb animal you need to babysit sometimes with his drones and his toys. I don't care. As long as he can still pitch for us, we've already shown up and overcome everything else."
The injury to Bauer is the latest in a series of setbacks for the Indians' rotation, which has advanced to the ALCS despite losing starters Danny Salazar (right forearm strain) and Carlos Carrasco (fractured right hand) in September. Cleveland also endured a rotation scare near the end of the regular season, when ace Corey Kluber (Friday's Game 1 starter) left his final start due to a mild quadriceps strain.
Due to the injuries to Salazar and Carrasco, Cleveland's starting staff has been whittled down to three options: Kluber, Bauer and Tomlin. Right-hander Mike Clevinger is the projected starter for Game 4 of the ALCS on Tuesday (4 p.m. ET) in Toronto, but the game will likely be treated as a bullpen day for the Tribe. Clevinger has been working out of the bullpen and will remain available as a reliever for Games 1 and 2.
If Bauer is not able to start as planned on Monday, Francona said Clevinger or lefty Ryan Merritt would be alternatives for Game 3 at Rogers Centre.
"This isn't the first obstacle we've had to overcome," Tomlin said. "We've talked about it since Day 1 of Spring Training -- we're never going to back down from a challenge. This is another challenge for us to accept and move forward."
Tomlin smirked when asked if he had ever heard of a pitcher being injured by a drone.
"I don't know much about drones," Tomlin replied with a laugh.
Even in light of the injury, Francona said the Indians do not have an issue with Bauer's hobby.
"This was not malicious," Francona said. "He wasn't doing something [bad]. I mean, he could've been opening a box in the kitchen. Things happen. I wish it wouldn't have, but like I said, it wasn't done maliciously. It wasn't done by being silly. It just happened."
Bauer started the opener of the AL Division Series against the Red Sox on Oct. 6 and turned in 4 2/3 innings, in which he allowed three runs on six hits with six strikeouts and no walks. The righty logged 78 pitches before Francona turned things over to Cleveland's bullpen. During the regular season, Bauer went 12-8 with a 4.26 ERA in 190 innings, piling up 168 strikeouts against 70 walks along the way.
Tomlin started Game 3 of the ALDS this past Monday and held Boston to two runs on four hits over five innings, after which Francona once again leaned heavily on the bullpen to lock down the win. Tomlin will be working on regular rest (four days off) ahead of the Game 2 outing against Toronto.
"This really shouldn't be an issue," Francona said of Bauer's injury. "As long as everything goes according to the way the doctors think, all it ends up being is we flip-flopped those two. Both of them were going to pitch twice. Hopefully, that's all it will be."
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.