CLEVELAND -- On the surface, the move to have Corey Kluber start the opener of the Indians' series against the Tigers on Monday just looked like a way to get the ace on a regular five-day routine. Manager Terry Francona said there was another piece to the equation.The rotation change
CLEVELAND -- On the surface, the move to have Corey Kluber start the opener of the Indians' series against the Tigers on Monday just looked like a way to get the ace on a regular five-day routine. Manager Terry Francona said there was another piece to the equation.
The rotation change was also aimed at providing a couple extra days of recovery for right-hander Josh Tomlin, who had a back issue flare up during his season debut against the Angels on April 3 in Anaheim. As things stand, Tomlin is scheduled to start against the Tigers on Tuesday at Progressive Field.
"Tomlin's lower back was bothering him a lot," Francona said. "We just figured -- after we checked with Kluber, [Carlos] Carrasco and that group to make sure they could stay on their day -- we backed J.T. up a couple days just so he doesn't have to fight this for the next month."
Francona said that Tomlin tweaked his back during a pitch to Angels slugger Justin Upton in the third plate appearance of the pitcher's 2018 debut. In that start, Tomlin tied an unfortunate career high with eight earned runs allowed, doing so in three innings before exiting the game. The righty also allowed a career-worst four home runs, including the first of Angels rookie Shohei Ohtani's career.
For the entirety of the 77-pitch appearance, Tomlin averaged 84.4 mph with his cutter, which was a tick down from the 85.5-mph average he posted throughout the 2017 campaign. Tomlin also averaged 86.4 mph with his four-seam fastball -- down from the 87.8-mph average in '17.
"He threw a side [session] a couple days ago and everything went well," Francona said. "So hopefully the couple days bought him [time] where he can go pitch, as opposed to trying to fight it. He was having a tough time finishing his pitches the other day, so hopefully this will help him."
• With lefty Francisco Liriano on the mound for the Tigers on Monday, Francona gave left fielder Michael Brantley his first day off since being activated from the 10-day disabled list on Friday. The manager has been impressed with how Brantley has looked on the field out of the chute.
"I actually think it's pretty amazing," Francona said, "that he just steps in and seems like he picks up where he left off. Team-wide, we haven't swung the bat very well, but he looks to me like, 'Give him some at-bats and he'll be just fine.'"
• Francona noted that outfielder Lonnie Chisenhall (10-day DL, right calf strain) is still with the team and will likely remain in Cleveland to continue his rehab rather than head to Arizona during the team's upcoming road trip.
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.