Can Indians keep Clevinger in starting role?

Club discussing options as Kluber nears return; six-man rotation not being considered

Can Indians keep Clevinger in starting role?

CINCINNATI -- With ace Corey Kluber nearing his return from the disabled list, the Indians have a decision to make. Right-hander Mike Clevinger has performed well enough that Cleveland plans on sifting through its options for potentially keeping him in the rotation.

"Just the fact that we're having this conversation means he's doing some real good things, which we'll take," Indians manager Terry Francona said prior to Tuesday's game against the Reds. "I'd much rather have hard decisions than just real easy ones because guys are struggling."

As things currently stand, Kluber (lower back) is scheduled to make a Minor League rehab start for Triple-A Columbus before possibly being slotted back into the Tribe's staff. Francona said he and the team's decision-makers will gather on Wednesday in Cleveland to discuss the plans for the rotation upon Kluber's return.

Kluber ready to begin rehab assignment

Francona said one scenario that is not being considered is a six-man rotation, as that is "too hard on your bullpen." Moving a starter to the bullpen can be risky at this point in the season, because it strips away a layer of depth for the rotation. Cleveland could option Clevinger back to Triple-A, but with a 1.56 ERA, 19 strikeouts and only six hits allowed in 17 1/3 innings, he is the staff's hottest hand at the moment.

The 26-year-old Clevinger, who carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning against the Astros on Saturday, bounced between the Indians' rotation and bullpen last season.

Right-handers Josh Tomlin (2-6, 6.70 ERA), Trevor Bauer (4-4, 6.65 ERA) and Danny Salazar (3-4, 5.55 ERA) have each struggled to find their expected form through the season's first two months. Moving one of them to the bullpen could also risk upsetting the relief corps' chemistry, as the 'pen headed into Tuesday boasting the best ERA (1.95) in the Majors.

"We just want to walk through every single option and listen to everybody's opinion," Francona said. "And then, we'll make what we think is the best decision for everybody. But, we haven't talked in-depth about it, yet."

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 Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.