CLEVELAND -- The Indians are keeping their ace in the hole. During Tuesday's workout at Progressive Field, manager Terry Francona announced that Trevor Bauer, not Corey Kluber, will take the ball for Cleveland in Game 1 of the American League Division Series presented by Doosan on Thursday vs. the Yankees at Progressive Field.
Kluber, who is a leading contender for the AL Cy Young Award, is scheduled to start for the Indians on Friday for Game 2, with right-hander Carlos Carrasco in line to start Sunday in Game 3 on the road. If a Game 4 is necessary, Josh Tomlin will be the probable starter, though Francona said that is subject to change. Kluber would take the mound for Game 5, if the ALDS went that far.
"We're trying to get as much flexibility as we can," Francona said. "There are a lot of factors, but I think we set it up [well]. We didn't try to overcomplicate it. The main reason is trying to turn a 25-man roster basically into like 27 by having some of your starters available in the bullpen, if need be."
Francona said the Indians wanted to strike a balance between winning the first three games and creating contingency plans if the ALDS extends to four or five games. If the series went the distance, for example, this rotation order would allow Kluber to return on normal rest.
Staying on a five-day routine, if possible, is the preference for Kluber, who discussed the ALDS schedule with Francona a couple weeks ago.
"I think for a number of reasons, it makes good sense," Francona said. "Not that you go into a game thinking you're going to lose, but if you do, you have your ace coming back. The biggest thing was keeping him on his five-day. That was really important to Kluber. That was really the only way we could do it."
Last October, when the Indians' pitching staff was depleted by injuries, Kluber made six starts, which is a single-postseason franchise record. Two of those outings were on short rest in the World Series, and three of his starts overall came on an abbreviated schedule. Both Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway have noted that Kluber was worn down by the end of the playoffs.
So while Cleveland plans on leaning on Kluber heavily again, it also wants to delay a short-rest situation, if possible.
"The chances of anybody besides Kluber going real deep probably aren't real good," Francona said. "Because we're going to get to our bullpen if we have a lead. And if we don't have a lead, you probably get to your bullpen."
Francona also noted that Tomlin will be available out of the bullpen for the first three games, along with right-handers Danny Salazar and Mike Clevinger. If Tomlin were pressed into duty early in the series, Francona has said multiple times that Bauer is the best-equipped pitcher in that group to return on short rest for a Game 4 scenario.
"He's durable. He bounces back really well," Francona said. "That's another thing. We can use him, whether it's a second start or in the bullpen, probably easier than anybody on our roster."
"Everybody on the pitching staff has pitched well," Callaway said. "These were the hardest decisions we've ever made, and I'm not even sure they're still made. We're still talking to guys. It was difficult and we're going to have some tough conversations, because everybody can't be on the team. We wish they could be, but they just can't 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 Facebook. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.