DETROIT -- The Indians are hoping that some time off will help alleviate the back issue that has bothered ace Corey Kluber throughout the season's first five weeks.
Prior to Wednesday's game against the Tigers, Cleveland placed Kluber on the 10-day disabled list with a lower back strain and recalled reliever Joseph Colon from Triple-A Columbus. The move comes after Kluber exited Tuesday's 5-2 loss to Detroit after only three innings due to back tightness.
"To allow him to take a deep breath," Indians manager Terry Francona said, "knowing he doesn't have to start in five days, is probably the best chance to settle this thing down. The hope is that after a couple days, he feels better and he can get back into getting on his program."
With the timeframe for a DL stint now reduced to 10 days -- as opposed to the previous 15-day format -- the best-case scenario would have Kluber missing only one turn in the rotation. The Indians will need a starter on Sunday in Kansas City, but they will not technically require a fifth arm again until May 16 due to a team off-day on May 11.
Kluber will be eligible for activation on May 13, but Francona stressed that the team will not bring the pitcher back until he is full ready.
"I know how important he is to us, but we need to be fair," Francona said. "The last thing you want to do is get in some bad habits or get hurt. So, we're trying to gather as much information as we can. He's already been seen a lot by people in Cleveland and stuff. We'll try to figure out what the best way to go is."
In Tuesday's loss, Kluber logged 55 pitches and allowed five runs on seven hits before exiting. Following the game, the right-hander was still moving around gingerly in the visitors' clubhouse at Comerica Park. The same issue flared up during his April 9 road outing against the D-backs, and Kluber said he had also been bothered on and off by the back issue in other starts.
While pitching through the back problem, Kluber has gone 3-2 with a 5.06 ERA in six starts, piling up 41 strikeouts against 13 walks in 37 1/3 innings this season.
The most likely candidate to take Kluber's start on Sunday against the Royals is Triple-A righty Mike Clevinger (1.50 ERA in six starts), but the Indians have the ability to wait a few days before making that move. Like Kluber, Clevinger pitched on Tuesday, so he is lined up to pitch on Sunday.
"He's really throwing the ball well," Francona said of Clevinger. "There's no reason to make the announcement, but it's pretty safe to assume that [he'll start Sunday]."
In the meantime, Colon gives Cleveland's bullpen a fresh arm after the relief corps logged five innings in Tuesday's loss. Colon appeared in 11 games for the Tribe last season, and he has posted a 0.87 ERA with eight strikeouts and three walks in 10 1/3 innings this year at Triple-A.
"Stating the obvious, we're not going to go with this roster forever," Francona said. "But, we're trying to protect our bullpen."
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
With stellar stats since the outset of 2014 (3.12 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 9.9 K/9), Kluber has top-5 starter talent and can be targeted as a buy-low trade candidate, given his potential to return in relatively short order. Kluber owners in shallow leagues can check waivers for a replacement such as Francisco Liriano or Eduardo Rodriguez. Meanwhile, those in deeper leagues should take a look at Dan Straily, Alex Wood or Mike Foltynewicz.