KANSAS CITY -- Indians manager Terry Francona is looking forward to being able to use his pitchers based on situations instead of schedules. That freedom will return when the club begins the American League Division Series against the Astros on Friday at Minute Maid Park.In the season's last month, Francona
KANSAS CITY -- Indians manager Terry Francona is looking forward to being able to use his pitchers based on situations instead of schedules. That freedom will return when the club begins the American League Division Series against the Astros on Friday at Minute Maid Park.
In the season's last month, Francona has closely monitored Trevor Bauer's workload as the starter makes his way back from a six-week absence due to a stress fracture in his right fibula. The manager has gradually worked relief ace Andrew Miller back to unrestricted duty after three DL stints this season. Francona gave closer Cody Allen an extended break before ramping him back up in the final week.
Needless to say, there might be no one more ready for the best-of-five ALDS than Francona.
"I can't wait," Francona said prior to Saturday's game against the Royals. "Again, there's reasons we do it. But, man, part of the reason you do this job is because you're competitive. It just kind of goes against [your nature]. Sometimes, you like have to put your seatbelt on, or the restraints. It's hard to do. But, hopefully, it pays dividends. That's why we're doing it."
The seatbelt will remain buckled for Sunday's regular-season finale at Kauffman Stadium.
In the last game of the year against the Royals, right-hander Carlos Carrasco will start and log around 80 pitches, but then Bauer (activated from the DL on Sept. 21) will come out of the bullpen with the goal of handling the remainder of the innings. With limited innings available for the regular relievers on Sunday, Francona said he would aim to get Allen, Miller, Brad Hand and Oliver Perez work in Saturday's tilt.
There will be more innings available in Tuesday's intrasquad game at Progressive Field.
Miller agreed it will be nice to start the playoffs, when Francona can use his arms with wins (not just repetitions) in mind. Over the past two postseasons, Francona has actually used his relievers in more innings (91 1/3) than his starters (89 2/3). Miller has led the way with 24 1/3 innings, followed by Allen with 19. The bullpen overall turned in a combined 2.07 ERA in the 2016 and '17 playoffs.
"It should be fun," Miller said. "We really haven't had a chance to kind of put everybody out there the way that maybe [you'll see in October]. Whether it's been because I've been hurt or whether the games just aren't meaning that much, or whatever it is, we haven't really put our foot on the gas. And our starters have been so good that there haven't been too many days where we need to cover more than about an inning or two.
"In the playoffs, that'll change. The games are different. I'm excited. I think it's been, for me personally, a little bit of a grind this year. But, I feel like everything's kind of putting in the right direction and I can't wait for these games to get here."
• Francona indicated that utility man Erik Gonzalez (hit in the head with a pitch on Wednesday) continues to make progress. Gonzalez, who has been in MLB's concussion protocol, was cleared to do some activity in the weight room on Saturday. The Indians are hopeful he will be cleared to participate in Tuesday's intrasquad game at Progressive Field.
• The Indians went with an 11-man pitching staff for the ALDS last season. Francona was asked on Saturday if he would go with the same alignment this year, but he would not tip his hand. Said Francona: "We [need to] get through tomorrow. I just want to make sure everybody's intact and then we'll figure it out."
• Entering Saturday, the Indians' rotation had issued 240 walks, marking the club's second-lowest total since at least 1908. Only the 1981 rotation had fewer (235). The 4.39 strikeout-to-walk ratio by the Tribe's rotation this season stands as the highest single-season mark in MLB history.
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.