Rotation uncertain as Indians monitor Bauer

Injured righty in line for Game 3 start, but Francona will keep options open

October 15th, 2016

CLEVELAND -- The good news on Saturday morning was that Indians starter 's pitching hand appeared to be healing well. Even with it looking promising that Bauer will be able to start in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series on Monday (8 p.m. ET on TBS, as well as Sportsnet and RDS in Canada), manager Terry Francona knows he has to keep his options open.

Francona wants to be ready for anything -- like finding out Bauer injured his right pinkie finger while repairing one of his drones on Thursday night. Though that is obviously an extreme example of unpredictability, Cleveland's skipper is not writing anything in permanent ink when it comes to his rotation alignment for the upcoming games against the Blue Jays.

• ALCS Game 3: Monday at 8 p.m. ET on TBS/Sportsnet/RDS

:: ALCS: Blue Jays vs. Indians coverage ::

"You know what?" Francona said prior to the Indians' 2-1 win in Game 2 on Saturday for a 2-0 series lead. "We've talked about not just Game 4, but Games 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, because there's a little bit of ambiguity there with Trevor and his finger, with [Mike] Clevinger not being stretched out.

"So there are some options I think for us moving forward. We'll go game by game. And all our pitchers are unbelievably cooperative, which is not shocking. And we'll keep communicating with them."

The plan includes having Bauer -- originally scheduled to start Game 2 in Cleveland -- take the ball in Game 3 in Toronto. That will give the right-hander more time to let his lacerated pinkie, which needed 10 stitches, heal in the days and hours leading up to his start. If everything goes well, Clevinger would start for the Indians in a bullpen day in Game 4 on Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET at Rogers Centre.

Things could change, though.

If Bauer's wound breaks open and begins bleeding during his start, he would be required to leave the game. That could necessitate having Clevinger, and available as insurance behind Bauer for Game 3. If something drastic happens that influences Game 4, Francona is also keeping an open mind about bringing ace back on three days' rest for that game. Kluber threw 100 pitches in 6 1/3 scoreless innings in Cleveland's Game 1 victory.

As things stand, Kluber projects to start Game 5 (if necessary) on Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET in Toronto.

"I don't think we'll rule out anything," Francona said. "It can't just work for him. There's always trickle down. You've got to have answers other places, too. ... Whatever we think is in our best interest, we'll do. And I don't know if we really know that, yet, because there's so many unknowns still.

"One, I think we'd like to watch Trevor. Common sense says see how he does. Because, if he's struggling with it, that's part of it, too. We'll see."

Francona said Bauer has already played catch twice since injuring his hand, and the cut was already healing properly. The manager said the team's medical staff was considering adding more stitches on Friday night, but he opted not to after examining Bauer's hand.

"They thought, even in a day's time, it was already progressing very well," Francona said. "I think he's going to be just fine."

Helping matters is the fact that the Indians will have Sunday's ALCS off-day ahead of Bauer's scheduled start. With that in mind, Francona might be able to treat Game 3 similarly to how he approached Game 1 of the AL Division Series, with Bauer on the mound against Boston. He threw 78 pitches and worked 4 2/3 innings before Francona handed the ball to the Tribe's bullpen.

Bauer will be working with 10 days of rest, but extended periods of rest have not taken too much of a toll on him in the past. In 15 career starts on six or more days of rest, Bauer has turned in a 4.13 ERA with a .234 opponents' average and 71 strikeouts in 76 1/3 innings. Overall this season, the righty went 12-8 with a 4.26 ERA, a .248 opponents' average and 168 strikeouts in 190 frames.

Bauer has a 6.27 ERA in 18 2/3 career innings against the Blue Jays, but he excelled against Toronto this year. In 13 innings against the Jays this season, the right-hander allowed two runs on seven hits, with 16 strikeouts and five walks. That includes five scoreless innings of relief that closed out Cleveland's 2-1, 19-inning win over Toronto on July 1 at Rogers Centre.

Francona said Bauer felt terrible about the accident with his drone.

"He was extremely [remorseful]," Francona said. "He [felt] really, really bad. You know what? It was an accident. He wasn't doing something he shouldn't have been doing. He could've been doing a model airplane. He just cut his finger. It wasn't like he fell off a motorcycle."