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Kluber eyes sim game after successful bullpen

Indians right-hander threw 45 pitches in Saturday's session
@MandyBell02
July 27, 2019

KANSAS CITY -- Indians ace Corey Kluber may be nearing the next step of his rehab process. The right-hander, who has been on the injured list since fracturing his right forearm on May 1, successfully completed his fourth bullpen session prior to Saturday night’s game at Kauffman Stadium, and he

KANSAS CITY -- Indians ace Corey Kluber may be nearing the next step of his rehab process.

The right-hander, who has been on the injured list since fracturing his right forearm on May 1, successfully completed his fourth bullpen session prior to Saturday night’s game at Kauffman Stadium, and he may advance to throwing a simulated game by the end of next week.

“There’s a lot of things,” manager Terry Francona said. “Some of it is maybe even how he’s commanding the baseball. It’s not just health, it’s where he feels he is in his progression of what he's ready for. That’s what we’re trying to do. He’s so good about knowing his body that he and [pitching coach] Carl [Willis] and those guys put their heads together, and they get with the trainers and then figure out what’s the next step.”

Kluber threw 45 pitches in his most recent bullpen session, including breaking balls for the first time since his injury.

“[It felt] good,” Kluber said. “Just like the rest of them. Maybe I was a little bit hesitant on the first like any other -- first fastball I was a little hesitant or changeup, but once you throw the first one and it feels fine, then it gets out of your mind and you go back to working like normal.”

The 33-year-old Kluber was cleared to start playing catch on June 27 and he got back on the rubber on July 18. His first two bullpens consisted of just fastballs before he started working in his changeup at the beginning of the week in Toronto. He’ll throw another bullpen on Tuesday and, if all goes smoothly, he’s hoping to take the next step to a simulated game.

“I think when that time comes, whether it’s next week or whatever, it’ll be nice to get a hitter in there and kind of have that reference point to work off of too,” Kluber said. “I feel like I’ve thrown I’m not sure how many bullpens now, but I’ve thrown off the mound enough that that’s kind of the next step is to get a hitter in there and work on getting up and down, and things like that. So, that’s kind of the next piece of the puzzle.”

Santana sidelined
On Thursday, Carlos Santana dove head-first into first base to beat out a ground ball to first, but he injured his left shoulder in the process. On Friday, he was scratched from the starting lineup about an hour before first pitch with some lingering soreness in the area. He came back in feeling better on Saturday, but Santana thought it was best to miss another game.

“He just thought one more day would really help him,” Francona said. “It’s hard, he wants to play so bad. It just makes sense. If he says he needs a day, he’s going to get back in there the minute he can, we all know that. So, we’ll stay away from him tonight.”

Freeman in the three-hole
When Santana was scratched, Francona plugged utility man Mike Freeman in the No. 3 spot in the batting order. Although Freeman may not be a traditional three-hole hitter, Francona decided to keep Freeman there again on Saturday against the Royals.

“Me and [bench coach Brad Mills] came up with like seven different lineups,” Francona said. “We kind of looked and were like, ‘You know what? Let’s leave everybody where they are.’ Because we know Freeman’s going to play the game. Even if you need him to bunt, it may not be a typical three-hole move, but he knows how to play the game and give you good at-bats. He’s been a really, really good addition for us.”

This date in Indians history
2007: The Tribe acquired Kenny Lofton in a trade with the Rangers. It was the start of Lofton’s third and final stint with the club, and he hit .283 in 52 games.

Mandy Bell covers the Indians for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter at @MandyBell02.