Cleveland Indians: How the Tribe’s ALDS Starting Rotation Shapes Up

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Aug 26, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber (28) pitches against the Texas Rangers during the third inning at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 26, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber (28) pitches against the Texas Rangers during the third inning at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Cleveland Indians appear to have their starting rotation set for the ALDS. How does it shake out and who will have the ball in his hands in the biggest games the team has played in years?

After Saturday’s 6-3 win over Kansas City, Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona shed a little light on what the club’s starting pitching rotation would look like when the American League Division Series gets underway against the Boston Red Sox on Thursday.

Trevor Bauer, who tossed six innings in a no-decision against the Royals, will be on the bump in game one of the ALDS. The 25-year old just completed his third full season in the big leagues, finishing with a 12-8 record, 4.26 earned run average, and a 110 ERA+ in 190 innings.

Bauer began the season in the bullpen, but made 28 starts in 2016, and has never lacked for confidence.

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“We’ve got to get it as a team,” Bauer said on Saturday. “That’s the ultimate goal, to go out there and win. That’s what I’ll go out there and do my best to do. I have a lot of confidence in my teammates. Hopefully, they have confidence in me. It should be fun.”

If a game four is required, Bauer would start on just three days rest.

The decision to start Bauer in game one means that staff ace Corey Kluber will go in game two. Kluber was diagnosed with a mild strain of the right quadriceps after leaving his start on Monday in Detroit after just four innings. He is slated to throw a bullpen session on Sunday.

“Klubes really wanted to pitch Thursday,” Francona said. “We’ve been talking about it for three or four days. I just kind of overruled him. I think, in fact, I know it’s the right thing for everybody. I didn’t think it was fair to Kluber to have him sit for 10 days and then pitch two games in four days. He certainly wanted to. And it’s not just me. Kind of [after] talking to everybody, I kind of took it out of his hands.”

If a game five is needed to decide the series, Kluber would then get the ball for that one on regular rest. A frontrunner for the AL Cy Young award this season, the right-hander went 18-9 with a 3.14 ERA in the regular season, and leads the league in ERA+, FIP, bWAR, and several other sabermetric statistics.

Josh Tomlin is slated to start in game three of the series after being thrust back into the rotation by injuries to Danny Salazar and Carlos Carrasco. Tomlin made 28 starts for Cleveland, posting a 12-9 record with a 4.48 ERA and ERA+ of 105.

Salazar is an interesting component to the equation, as there is a possibility he could be recovered sufficiently from a strained right forearm to be ready for the playoffs. The 26-year old has not pitched since September 9th, but has been progressing and is on schedule to throw a simulated game on Monday.

Aug 28, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Danny Salazar (31) pitches against the Texas Rangers during the second inning at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 28, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Danny Salazar (31) pitches against the Texas Rangers during the second inning at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

“We’re still trying to work through when the next step is,” Francona said. “Obviously, there’s a lot of balls in the air with maybe a game on Monday, maybe not. I think we’re ready for pretty much everything. He needs to have the simulated [outing] first.”

If all goes well in the sim game, Salazar could be used as a bullpen weapon against Boston, along with rookie Mike Clevinger. Those two power arms would provide a complement to the Indians’ four-headed relief monster of Dan Otero, Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen.

But the focus for now, is on Bauer harnessing the great potential he has and putting it together for the most important game of his career to this point.

“I think he relishes what’s ahead of him,” Francona said. “He’s going to go up against a good lineup, but I think he’ll be okay.”

This is not the rotation the Tribe thought it would be relying on in the postseason, but it’s the one they’ve got. Anything can happen in the playoffs, and heroes seemingly emerge from out of nowhere every year.

Next: One Month Doesn't Define Josh Tomlin

“When they tell me when to pitch, I go out there and I pitch,” Bauer said. “So game one or game two or game three, whatever. They’re all important now.”

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