CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians have yet to announce their roster for the American League Championship Series against the Toronto Blue Jays, but they have decided on the starting rotation for the best-of-seven matchup.
The Indians will switch up their first two starters and go with 18-game winner Corey Kluber in Game 1 with Trevor Bauer on the mound for Game 2 against Toronto at Progressive Field. In a three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox in the American League Division Series, Bauer started Game 1 and coming off of a muscle strain, Kluber went in Game 2.
Josh Tomlin will take the ball in Game 3, and as it stands, rookie Mike Clevinger is slated to start Game 4 in Rogers Centre in Toronto.
“Clevinger is penciled in to throw Game 4,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “The reason I say that is because he’ll be in the bullpen to start the series, and you never say never. We played Toronto and won an 18-inning game, so it’s not that we’re moving somebody up if we win a game or lose a game.
“He’s supposed to pitch. Because he’s in the bullpen the first two games, we reserve the right to make a change if we need to.”
Should Clevinger not be needed in the first two games and does start in Game 4, he will not be stretched beyond normal limits after he adjusted to a bullpen role throughout the regular season with 10 spot starts.
“I just don’t think at this time of the year you can do it properly,” Francona said. “I think you’re almost doing him a disservice. The idea is for him to help us out of the bullpen, which at some point, that’s going to have to happen.
“You’re going to see Manship, McAllister. You’re going to see those guys pitch, and it’ll be in meaningful games. Rather than try to cover everything and then, not cover everything, just let him keep pitching, and when he does start, it’ll be somewhat of an abbreviated start.”
Kluber had not pitched in 10 days after straining a muscle in his right leg, but knowing that his bullpen had four-plus innings of work in Game 1 and with the rotation depleted because of injury, he pitched like the ace the team needed him to be in Game 2 against Boston.
Over seven-plus innings of work, Kluber allowed just three hits and three walks against seven strikeouts and worked his way around multiple jams, each time closing the door on the Red Sox on the way to a 6-0 win and 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
And by setting up the rotation with Kluber in Game 1 and Bauer in Game 2, the Indians should avoid throwing a starter on three days’ rest in the Championship Series.
“I just think the way it’s set up, two, off day, three, off day, you’re asking guys to do a lot,” Francona said. “You see at times where people have guys go on short rest. We were certainly willing to do it with Trevor. I think right now, we feel like our best way to win this series is to allow those first three to pitch two games and to pitch Clev in the fourth game.”