ST. PETERSBBURG -- The Indians have yet to pop a cork on a bottle of champagne, but the club is already starting to map things out for the postseason.Step one in Cleveland's October preparations will be pushing ace Corey Kluber's next start back to Sept. 18 against the White Sox,
ST. PETERSBBURG -- The Indians have yet to pop a cork on a bottle of champagne, but the club is already starting to map things out for the postseason.
Step one in Cleveland's October preparations will be pushing ace Corey Kluber's next start back to Sept. 18 against the White Sox, meaning he will have seven days off between outings. The reason behind the decision is to meet Kluber's request of having one extra day of rest prior to a potential Game 1 start on Oct. 5 in the American League Division Series.
"He's going to get a week [off] this week, which is too long," Indians manager Terry Francona said prior to Tuesday's game against the Rays. "Now, the good news is, he can throw a good side and all that, but barring anything crazy, he can go into a playoff game with one extra day's rest, which is what he wants. And that was the only way to do it."
If nothing unexpected takes place, Kluber's final regular season start will fall on Sept. 29 on the road against the Royals. In order to make the schedule work, Cleveland will have the flexibility of starting Kluber on Sept. 23 against the Red Sox or on Sept. 24 against the White Sox. That will depend on whether he wants an extra day off after the Sept. 18 outing or prior to his last start of the regular season.
To accommodate Kluber's schedule, the Indians' probables for the upcoming weekend series against the Tigers will consist of Josh Tomlin (Friday), Mike Clevinger (Saturday) and Shane Bieber (Sunday). Francona noted that Kluber -- after discussing the situation with pitching coach Carl Willis -- preferred to get the extended break out of the way now, rather than right before October.
A year ago, Kluber took the ball against the Yankees in Game 2 of the AL Division Series, allowing him to return for Game 5, which Cleveland ultimately lost. In that series, the Indians utilized a three-man rotation. Francona was asked if last year's chain of events -- the Tribe lost three straight after taking a 2-0 lead in the ALDS -- would influence the team's decision on whether to go with three or four starters in the postseason this time around.
Francona said Cleveland's preference right now would be to use a four-man rotation come the postseason.
"Every time we do something, we try to learn," Francona said. "I think every experience is different. As we sit right now, I'd say we'd probably go with four. We have three weeks left. Things happen. We're going to try to put our team in the best position, we think, to win. We were kind of up against it a little bit, but I think we'll go with four. That would be our first choice."
"For the first time probably all year, we're getting close to where we have our team, and hopefully, nothing else happens and we can work towards becoming a team that could be a factor. We've had a lot of ups and downs, a lot of bumps in the road. And things look like they're kind of coming together. Now, we've got some work to do, but it's nice to kind of have everybody where they're going to be and we can see if we can get better." -- Francona
• Francona talked about the team's recent lackluster play Tuesday with shortstop Francisco Lindor. The Indians headed into Tuesday's game with a 15 1/2-game lead on the Twins in the AL Central, but the Tribe have gone 4-6 in its previous 10 games. The manager was asked if it has been challenging to keep the players focused in light of having such a large advantage in the division.
"I was actually talking with Frankie about that today," Francona said. "What, am I going to go in there and start screaming when we play a mediocre game? We're up 15 games. They're not idiots. They know. I mean, shoot. So, I think we're kind of in competition with ourselves to see how good we can play, despite whatever the standings say."
• As Jason Kipnis gets acclimated to center field again, Francona said there will be times when rookie Greg Allen heads in for defense late in games. That said, the manager plans on giving Kipnis ample innings to adjust to the transition back to the outfield.
"I am aware that the first couple games might not be what he will be [capable of]. So, I fully understand that," Francona said. "I want Kip to get enough reps. I want to take care of him a little bit, too."
• Right-hander Trevor Bauer (10-day disabled list, stress fracture in right fibula) remains on target to throw off the mound in a bullpen session Wednesday back in Cleveland. There remains no established timetable for Bauer's return to the pitching staff.
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.