The Indians took a depleted roster into the playoffs two years ago and still found a way to cruise to an American League pennant. Cleveland looked like a powerhouse last season and was then bounced from the October stage after one round.There is a heightened sense of unfinished business for
The Indians took a depleted roster into the playoffs two years ago and still found a way to cruise to an American League pennant. Cleveland looked like a powerhouse last season and was then bounced from the October stage after one round.
There is a heightened sense of unfinished business for this year's Tribe, which captured the American League Central crown for the third consecutive campaign. While the path to the division title may have been easy given the current state of the Central, Cleveland dealt with a variety of issues that are finally being ironed out as the AL Division Series approaches.
"Our record, we might not have as many wins as what we had in those previous years," Indians general manager Mike Chernoff said. "But, it does feel like over the past several weeks, we've seen a lot of things come together in ways that we hadn't seen for the majority of the season. So, we do feel like we're sort of on an upward trajectory heading to the postseason."
:: ALDS schedule and results ::
As the ALDS looms, here are some FAQs on the Indians' situation:
Q: What are the dates for the ALDS and where can I watch the games?
A: Games 1 and 2 of the ALDS will be on Friday and Saturday. Game 3 in Cleveland is scheduled for Oct. 8, following an off-day. If necessary, Game 4 in Cleveland would be Oct. 9 and Game 5 would follow on Oct. 11 at Houston. All of the ALDS games will be televised by TBS, and will be available to MLB.TV subscribers who are authenticated subscribers to TBS through a participating pay TV provider.
Q: Have the game times been announced?
A: Game 1 will be at 2:05 p.m. ET and Game 2 will be at 4:37 p.m. ET. Nothing else has been announced yet.
Q: How have the Indians fared against the Astros this season?
The Indians and Astros squared off seven times between May 18-27, with Houston winning four in the season series. The Indians were outscored, 45-29, in the seven games. Arguably the game of the season for the Tribe was its May 27 tilt against the Astros. Jose Ramirez sparked a five-run rally in the ninth with a 17-pitch battle and rookie Greg Allen belted a walk-off homer in the 14th for a 10-9 win.
Q: How will the Indians handle the four off-days prior to the ALDS?
A: Indians manager Terry Francona said there will be an "extremely optional" workout at Progressive Field on Monday. Then, the team will try to simulate a game-type setting for an intrasquad contest on Tuesday (details to come). Cleveland would then hold another workout at home on Oct. 3 and one more on the road on Thursday.
Q: Who will be in the Indians' rotation?
A: Francona has announced that Corey Kluber will start Game 1, with Carlos Carrasco taking the ball in Game 2. The Game 3 starter will be Mike Clevinger. Trevor Bauer will be available out of the bullpen as a multi-inning leverage arm early in the series. Depending on his usage, either Bauer or rookie Shane Bieber will start Game 4 (if necessary).
Q: Last postseason, Cleveland put three starting pitchers in the bullpen. Will the team take a similar approach with the relief corps this year?
A: If the Indians go with a four-man rotation as planned, that probably means there will be seven arms in the bullpen. Francona did say, "Don't assume anything," when asked over the weekend if he would field an 11-man staff. Bieber, Cleveland's fifth starter, will be on the ALDS staff in some capacity.
Besides Bieber, the virtual locks are Andrew Miller, Brad Hand, Cody Allen and Oliver Perez. Cleveland would then likely take two from a group that includes Adam Cimber, Tyler Olson, Dan Otero, Neil Ramirez and Josh Tomlin.
Q: Who will be on Cleveland's bench?
A: If Cleveland features an 11-man pitching staff as anticipated, that would create five bench jobs. Backup catcher Roberto Perez gets one. That leaves four spots for Allen, Rajai Davis, Yandy Diaz, Erik Gonzalez and Brandon Guyer. Gonzalez (a utility man) is the only backup shortstop, but he is currently in MLB's concussion protocol after being hit in the head by a pitch on Sept. 26. The hope is Gonzalez will be cleared to play in Tuesday's intrasquad game with the goal of being ready for the ALDS.
If Gonzalez is carried due to his versatility, and the Indians prioritize speed and defense, then both Allen and Davis could figure into the plans. That would leave one of Diaz and Guyer as the odd man out. If the priority is right-handed bats to face tough lefties, then Diaz and Guyer could both be carried, leaving one of Allen or Davis off the roster.
Q: Will Yan Gomes be recovered in time for the ALDS?
A: Gomes sustained a laceration on his right thumb on Saturday and received two stitches. He did not play Sunday in Kansas City, but the Indians are optimistic that he will be ready for the ALDS. Francona said there is a chance that Gomes will have the stitches removed by mid-week.
Q: Is Josh Donaldson ready to be the everyday third baseman?
A: Donaldson's return from the DL has gone about as well as planned so far. He has built up to playing multiple games in a row and has been tested on the bases and in the field. Other than some rust in the batter's box due to the long layoff from playing, Donaldson has looked fine and poised for an everyday role in the playoffs.
Q: How will the Indians use Allen, Hand and Miller in the playoffs?
A: It's been written before, but it should be emphasized again: Cleveland does not have a closer. The Indians will use Allen, Hand and Miller late in games, depending on the situation and the lineup segment that is due up. Any of the three could appear from the sixth inning on in a postseason setting. Francona has said he likes having an "end point," but I think that could be Allen or Hand. Miller is more likely to be leveraged in the innings prior to the ninth, but he could close, too.
Q: How have Jason Kipnis and Ramirez looked in center field and at second base, respectively?
A: The acquisition of Donaldson pushed Ramirez off third and, in turn, sent Kipnis out to center. Second base is Ramirez's natural position and he has looked fine there, with only a handful of hiccups since shifting off third. Kipnis has taken some adventurous routes in center, but he has looked better as the innings of experience have piled up.
Q: Will Lonnie Chisenhall or Tyler Naquin factor into the postseason plans?
A: Naquin (hip) will join the team this week in Cleveland, where the medical staff will gauge his ability to be a viable insurance option in the event that something goes wrong with the current group of outfielders. Naquin is not expected to be in the ALDS plans, though. Chisenhall (left calf) continues to do baseball activity, but he is not part of the ALDS picture.
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.