CLEVELAND -- There was never really a question about who would take the ball for the Indians in the World Series opener Tuesday night. Ace Corey Kluber will get that assignment. The uncertainty comes into play with virtually every other slot in the rotation.
During Sunday's World Series workout at Progressive Field, Indians manager Terry Francona announced that Kluber will indeed start against the Cubs in Game 1 in Cleveland. Trevor Bauer is the planned starter for Game 2 on Wednesday and righty Josh Tomlin is slated for Game 3 on Friday at Wrigley Field, but Francona said that order could change.
The Indians are holding off on announcing a Game 4 starter, as the team is still evaluating Danny Salazar's progress. Rookie Ryan Merritt made the World Series roster, and he is in the mix to start Game 4. The club is also holding off on deciding whether Kluber may need to return on short rest.
"Kluber's going to start Game 1," Francona said. "Bauer and Tomlin will be Games 2 and 3. We're going to hold off as long as we can with Trevor, just to get the most information we can. If it works out right, we'd like him to pitch second."
Francona was referring to the fact that Bauer is still dealing with a lacerated right pinkie finger, which he cut badly while reparing one of his personal drones on Oct. 13. While the injury does not impact Bauer's pitching, he would not be able to remain in the game if the wound opens and begins bleeding. That scenario came to life in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series.
During that outing against the Blue Jays, Bauer only lasted four batters and 21 pitches, as his cut -- one that required 10 stitches -- opened and dripped blood on the mound. Bauer is able to keep the wound covered during workouts, but is not permitted to have any kind of covering on his finger in a game setting. If he starts Game 2 of the World Series, Bauer will have had eight days to heal between appearances.
"But, if the doctors or the trainers deem that those next two days would really give him a better chance," Francona said, "then we could move him back. So, we'll see."
Francona noted that Bauer was scheduled to play catch Sunday. During Monday's workout, Cleveland is hoping to have Bauer throw off the mound with batters standing in. After that bullpen session, the Indians will have a "much better idea" about the right-hander's status, according to Francona.
Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway was confident that Bauer would be ready to go for Game 2.
"I think he'll be OK again," Callaway said. "He could throw 120 pitches tomorrow if he had to."
Through three starts this October, Kluber has collected two wins and turned in a 0.98 ERA in 18 1/3 innings, in which he has piled up 20 strikeouts against seven walks. The AL Cy Young Award contender defeated the Red Sox in Game 2 of the AL Division Series, took down Toronto in the ALCS opener and then picked up a hard-luck loss while working on short rest in Game 4 against the Blue Jays.
Tomlin has gone 2-0 with a 2.53 ERA in two postseason starts -- one each against Boston and Toronto -- with 10 strikeouts and three walks in 10 2/3 innings. The righty pitched the clinching win over the Red Sox in Game 3 of the ALDS and then took the mound in Game 2 of the ALCS on short notice in the wake of Bauer's injury.
Another result of Bauer's injury in the ALCS was the emergence of Merritt, who tossed 4 1/3 shutout innings in the Game 5 clincher against the Jays.The Indians are monitoring Salazar (right forearm strain). If he gets through a three-inning simulated game Sunday with no issues, he could start Game 4. There is also the possibility that Kluber could return on short rest to pitch in Game 4.
"It's going to be TBA after Game 3 -- probably the rest of the way, for obvious reasons," Francona said. "It's not that difficult to figure out. Kluber's certainly an option. It could be a lot of things, so we're just kind of keeping it open. We found out the last series that that's probably a good way to do it."
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.