Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber is dealing with a strained quadriceps that will force him to sit out at least 7-10 days. What does this mean for the Tribe as they wind down the regular season and prepare for the playoffs?
The entire fanbase of the Cleveland Indians held its collective breath on Monday night when ace of the starting rotation Corey Kluber exited the team’s game against the Detroit Tigers after just four innings and 60 pitches. Cleveland went on to win the game and clinch its first American League Central Division championship since 2007, but the good vibes had a dark cloud hanging over them.
Kluber left the team and returned to Cleveland on Tuesday to have an MRI and was diagnosed with a mild quadriceps strain in his right leg. The recovery time is said to be 7-10 days, so it’s likely that the right-hander has thrown his last pitch of the regular season and will concentrate on being back for the ALDS.
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“It’s a heck of a lot better than it could’ve been,” Indians’ manager Terry Francona said of the injury. “This will give him a chance to hopefully have a bullpen session or two. Hopefully, it’ll maybe even help him. I think it’s certainly not bad news.”
Among a handful of the league’s top candidates for the Cy Young award, Kluber’s timetable to return to the mound coincides with game one of the Divisional Series, which will take place on Thursday, October 6th. It is possible that he could be pushed back another day to game two, with Trevor Bauer taking the ball in his place in game one.
The Tribe has already reportedly been discussing using a hybrid starting rotation in the postseason due to the injuries sustained by Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar. If Kluber was to experience a setback and be unable to pitch in the ALDS, the club is going to be scrambling for an answer.
In addition to Bauer, Josh Tomlin will likely start a game in the first round, and rookie Mike Clevinger could do so as well, though it was announced after his shaky outing on Tuesday that he would be heading back to the bullpen. Essentially, Cleveland is looking at a three-man rotation, and the loss of Kluber would be catastrophic to that plan.
Assuming that the Indians’ ace doesn’t experience any further issues and comes back on schedule, the club is actually set up quite well despite the absence of Carrasco and Salazar. As Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs recently pointed out on his Twitter account, the top three starters in last season’s playoffs accounted for the lion’s share of the innings, with the fourth starter basically being on a par with the top relievers.
A Kluber-Bauer-Tomlin triumvirate, coupled with the Tribe’s tremendous back-end bullpen arms of Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, and Bryan Shaw, should be more than sufficient, if a similar pattern holds true in this year’s postseason. While not ideal, the situation could certainly be much worse.
With just five games remaining in the regular season, Cleveland’s playoff spot is secure, though who the team will be matching up against the in ALDS is still up in the air. Whichever team it is, and whatever stadium game one is being played in, the Indians and their fans are just keeping their fingers crossed that it’s Kluber who’s toeing the rubber.