CLEVELAND -- Three pitchers were summoned to Indians manager Terry Francona's office on Tuesday afternoon. Francona wanted to tell them together. Dan Otero, Nick Goody and Zach McAllister, who were a key part of one of the best bullpens in baseball this year, would not be on the Tribe's American League Division Series roster.
That was tough news to deliver, and even harder news to hear, considering how important all three relievers were for the Tribe this season. Chalk it up to being a byproduct of just how deep Cleveland's pitching staff is right now, creating a complicated roster puzzle for Francona and the Indians' front office.
"I can't imagine being on their side," Otero said. "At one point, I may want to be in a front office. But, after being on this side of it, maybe I don't ever want to be on that side. It's not fun for anybody. But we still have a common goal as a team, and we need to stay ready. We'll stay ready in case something happens, whether it's this series, next series or beyond.
"We need to be all about the team right now. That's still the end goal, to be that last team standing."
That journey for the Indians begins Thursday, when they host the Yankees in Game 1 of the ALDS presented by Doosan. For this round, Cleveland wanted to build in as much flexibility as it could with its pitching staff. That process included moving starters Danny Salazar and Mike Clevinger to the bullpen. Josh Tomlin may or may not start Game 4, because he is also available as a reliever early on. Trevor Bauer -- starting Game 1 -- might move to the 'pen as early as Game 3.
With that many scenarios involving four starting pitchers, and the Indians opting to go with an 11-man staff, the regular-season relievers who made the ALDS bullpen include closer Cody Allen, relief ace Andrew Miller, setup men Bryan Shaw and Joe Smith, and lefty Tyler Olson.
That left no room at the inn for Otero, Goody or McAllister, who combined for a 2.75 ERA with 176 strikeouts in 176 2/3 innings this season.
"It was probably the one [decision] that probably caused me the most anxiety," Francona said. "I thought all three were very deserving of being on the roster. They didn't do anything to not be on, so it's a tough message to deliver."
Chris Antonetti, the team's president of baseball operations, met individually with the relievers on Wednesday to follow up on the team's decision.
"[This was] extremely difficult," Antonetti said. "What we've tried to emphasize to guys is that things can change in a hurry, and they need to be ready to go. And also, it doesn't diminish their contributions to the team. Each of those guys made huge contributions to our team in helping us get to this point.
"It's just, when you have to narrow down a roster for a short series, you have to take maybe some things into consideration that may not be as prevalent as the day-to-day issues of the regular season."
During the season, the Indians' bullpen ranked first in the Majors in ERA (2.89) and strikeout-minus-walk percentage (20.0), second in left-on-base percentage (78.7) and fourth in strikeouts per nine innings (10.1) and strikeout percentage (27.5). Within that showing, Otero (2.85), Goody (2.80) and McAllister (2.61) each registered a sub-3.00 ERA.
Goody was especially effective, piling up 72 strikeouts in his 54 2/3 innings. The right-hander had been looking forward to potentially facing the Yankees -- the team that dealt him away last winter -- so that made the news tough to swallow.
"The guys higher up, that's what they get paid to do -- make these decisions," Goody said. "You see the outcome it's had this year, so it's really hard to argue with that. We won 22 games in a row. We won 102 regular-season games. From a player's standpoint, they know what they're doing. That's why you just suck it up, bite your lip. And they've been great. They've communicated and everything."
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.