CLEVELAND -- The Indians do not have a specific pitch count in mind, and rookie Mike Clevinger does not want one. When Clevinger takes the mound as Cleveland's Game 4 starter in the American League Championship Series on Tuesday (4 p.m. ET on TBS in the U.S., Sportsnet and RDS
CLEVELAND -- The Indians do not have a specific pitch count in mind, and rookie Mike Clevinger does not want one. When Clevinger takes the mound as Cleveland's Game 4 starter in the American League Championship Series on Tuesday (4 p.m. ET on TBS in the U.S., Sportsnet and RDS in Canada), his only instructions will be to go as hard and far as he can against the Blue Jays.
"It's playoff games," Clevinger said during Thursday's workout at Progressive Field. "If they want me to go 130 [pitches] or if they want me to go 15, I'm going to go."
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There is plenty of time for the Indians to work out the specifics of what could develop into a bullpen-day scenario in Toronto early next week. That could change depending on how the first three games of the ALCS unfold, beginning with Game 1 on Friday (8 p.m. ET on TBS in the U.S.; Sportsnet and RDS in Canada), as Clevinger will be on call as a reliever for the first two games.
All that is certain at the moment is that the Indians will use Corey Kluber (Game 1), Trevor Bauer (Game 2 on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET) and Josh Tomlin (Game 3 on Monday at 8 p.m.) as their first three starters. The Game 4 situation is more cloudy and has Cleveland still discussing how to align its ALCS roster. Given the unique nature of the Tribe's rotation situation, the Indians will wait to announce their roster until the required time at 10 a.m. ET on Friday.
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"We had another day of meetings today and [we were] going over some of the advance stuff," Indians manager Terry Francona said on Thursday night. "I think we just want to take a little bit more time, just walk through [the possibilities of] three catchers, an extra pitcher, that type of stuff."
During the three-game sweep of the Red Sox in the AL Division Series, the Indians carried three catchers: Roberto Pérez, Yan Gomes and Chris Gimenez. Perez logged every inning behind the plate and performed well, making it a real possibility that the Tribe could consider trimming either Gomes or Gimenez from the roster for the ALCS. That would then open a spot for an extra bullpen arm.
Cleveland sent relievers Shawn Armstrong, Joe Colòn and Ryan Merritt to Arizona to keep throwing during the ALDS, as they were not on the 25-man roster. Lefty Kyle Crockett did not make the ALDS cut due to a minor back issue. With the possibility of a bullpen game looming in Game 4, the Tribe may want to have the additional arm. Crockett and Merritt would offer left-handed options, with Merritt capable of logging multiple innings.
The ALDS bullpen consisted of relief ace Andrew Miller, closer Cody Allen, setup men Bryan Shaw and Dan Otero, along with Zach McAllister, Jeff Manship, Cody Anderson and Clevinger. Miller, Allen, Shaw and Otero accounted for 38.3 percent of the innings thrown by Cleveland pitchers in the series, in which no other relievers appeared for the Indians.
The Indians worked a handful of bullpen games in September, so the team is not too worked up over the prospect of having the same approach come Game 4.
"I think it's viewed as more of an obstacle for us than it actually is," Tomlin said. "I think we have enough arms in the bullpen to be able to cover that game. And those guys have proven all year long that we've got a great bullpen. I think guys understand the approach, the role we're going to have to take in Game 4."
Kluber echoed that sentiment.
"It's not really that big of an issue for us," Kluber said. "We've done it a couple of times. Tito knows what he's doing. He knows how to manage a game. I don't think it's something that we're necessarily worried about."
During the regular season, the 25-year-old Clevinger turned in a 5.93 ERA with an .837 opponents' OPS in 10 starts, compared to a 3.00 ERA and a .515 opponents' OPS in seven relief appearances. The righty filled in as a starter for much of the final month, but he was moved back to the bullpen shortly before the postseason. During the ALDS, Cleveland did not stretch Clevinger out, but the team is not overly concerned.
For what it is worth, Clevinger said he feels capable of handling 100 pitches.
"I wouldn't even give a pitch count," pitching coach Mickey Callaway said, "because we're not worried about how far he goes. We want to see him come out like he's a reliever and let it go, if that's one hitter, one inning. We haven't even thought about a pitch count. We're going to let him go as hard and far as he can."
Clevinger said that is his only plan.
"I'll be aggressive and go until Tito takes the ball away from me," the rookie said.
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 listen to his podcast.