CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Indians have a starting pitcher for the first three games of the ALDS. It’s important because in a best-of-five series, things can end that quickly.
Corey Kluber will start Game 1 against the Astros on Friday at Minute Maid Park at 2:05 p.m. ET. Carlos Carrasco will start Game 2 on Saturday at 4:37 p.m. On Tuesday manager Terry Francona made it official that Mike Clevinger would start Game 3 on Monday at Progressive Field.
The Astros will counter with Justin Verlander in Game 1, Gerrit Cole in Game 2 and Dallas Keuchel in Game 3. Keuchel is the only lefty among the six pitchers.
As for Trevor Bauer, 7-0 against the Astros in his career, he’ll be working out of the bullpen along with fellow starter Shane Bieber for the first three games of the series. Should the series reach four games, Bauer or Bieber will be a candidate to start.
“It’s going to be Clevinger in Game 3 and Game 4 will be either Bieber or Bauer,” said Francona. “We’re trying to take our roster and expand it a little bit. Depending on how Bauer and Bieber are used early, that could determine who starts Game 4. On the flip side, the hope would be that Carrasco will be available at some point to maybe facilitate the bullpen at the back end of the series.”
Regarding bringing Kluber back on short rest to start Game 4, Francona said it’s something the Indians would like to avoid.
Normally Bauer would have started one of the first two games of the series, but he suffered a stress fracture in his right leg on Aug. 11. Bauer has made three appearances since being activated and the last was his most impressive. On Sunday, the final game of the regular season, he threw four scoreless innings in relief of Carrasco in a 2-1 win over Kansas City.
It offered an indication of how Francona could use him out of the bullpen.
“I can see Trevor, Bieber, too, but I can see if we get where we want to go, Trevor having a bigger hand in it than he realizes right now,” said Francona.
The one thing Francona said he didn’t want to do was overuse Bauer in the first two or three games.
“That’s not my preference,” he said. “It depends on need. Having Trevor as a starter can be really important. If we need him to help us win those other games, again, we wouldn’t use him without a leverage situation. But if we got some leverage, again, that’s where we’re going to try and figure it out. The other thing, too, is I don’t know if I’d want him to go that long without pitching, so an inning or two wouldn’t hurt him anyway.”
In the ALDS last year, Bauer started Game 1 and came back on short rest for Game 4. Kluber started Game 2 and Game 5. Kluber was not 100 percent in the ALDS. He struggled in Game 2, but the Indians won in 13 innings. In Game 5, he struggled again as the Yankees eliminated the Tribe.
Bauer won Game 1, but lost Game 4 as the Indians kicked the ball around behind him.
Francona said the Indians talked about starting Kluber in Game 1 or Game 2 against Houston.
Kluber said he wanted Game 1.
“He’s ready to accept the challenge of anchoring our staff,” said Francona. “We’ve talked about it to him — about pitching Game 1 or pitching Game 2. There are some obvious reasons for both. He really wanted – and I don’t want to say burden because I don’t think it’s a burden – the challenge of leading our team in the playoffs. I can’t think of anybody better.”
Francona did not announce the rest of the 25-man roster. He said that all involved parties had been told if they made the roster or not.
Regarding players on the bubble, utility man Erik Gonzalez was cleared from concussion protocol and started at shortstop on Tuesday in the Tribe’s intrasquad game. Tyler Naquin, recovering from right hip surgery, joined the team from his rehab assignment in Goodyear, Ariz., and played right field.
Outfielder Brandon Guyer didn’t play in the final three games in Kansas City over the weekend. He’s been bothered by a sore right shoulder.
Guyer started in right field and bunted in his first at-bat. The Indians don’t have to submit their final 25-man roster until 10 a.m. Friday and Guyer could be a last-minute decision.
“He actually came and worked out on Monday and took some balls of that bat, stuff like that,” said Francona. “We expected him to be fine. We just don’t want to push it.”
Catch Yan Gomes didn’t play because of a bruised and cut right thumb, but he’s expected to start on Friday.
Last year the Indians went into the ALDS with Michael Brantley and Lonnie Chisenhall far from healthy. Then Kluber didn’t pitch well and Edwin Encarnacion twisted his ankle.
The Indians have had to smooth some rough edges on this year’s roster as well. They added Josh Donaldson. Relievers Andrew Miller and Cody Allen needed to get back on track. Jose Ramirez ended the season in a long slump and they had to navigate around Bauer’s injury/comeback and Ramirez and Jason Kipnis changing positions because of Donaldson.
It led to the Indians not always playing well over the last several weeks.
“It’s not a lot of fun, because it’s unsettling,” said Francona. “But I think — in fact, I know — it was for a good reason. Now, we’re going to see if it pays off. We think we have Donaldson in a good place. We think Andrew’s come so far. Kip’s had three weeks to play center field. Jose’s had three weeks at second. If you have too many question marks, sometimes the answer is no. And we really don’t want that to happen.”