Posted on October 24, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine

Cleveland Indians Corey Kluber

Image via cbssports.com

The American League champion Cleveland Indians have announced their starting rotation for the 2016 World Series. Well, sort of, they have a rough outline of what they’d like to do. The Indians have announced their starters for the first three games of the series, but beyond that there is uncertainty of what the team will do. Even among the first three games, there is some wiggle room. The only thing that appears certain is that Corey Kluber will start Game 1 of the series Tuesday night in Cleveland.

“Kluber’s going to start Game 1,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona told reporters. “(Trevor) Bauer and (Josh) Tomlin will be Games 2 and 3. We’re going to hold off as long as we can with Trevor, just to get the most information we can. If it works out right, we’d like him to pitch second.”

Bauer, of course, is still recovering from a deep cut on his right pinky that forced him to leave Game 3 of the ALCS after just four batters because the cut opened up and would not stop bleeding. The injury does not have an impact on Bauer’s ability to pitch, but he won’t be allowed to stay on the mound if he’s bleeding. Both Bauer and the Indians remain confident that he will be fine by Game 2 on Wednesday night, but Cleveland is prepared to push his start back if necessary and move Tomlin up to Game 2.

“If the doctors or the trainers deem that those next two days would really give him a better chance,” Francona said, “then we could move him back. So, we’ll see.” However, Francona says that the team prefers to have Bauer in Game 2 and Tomlin in Game 3.

After Game 3, all bets are off with regard to how the Indians will handle their starting rotation. “It’s going to be TBA after Game 3 probably the rest of the way, for obvious reasons,” Francona says. “It’s not that difficult to figure out. Kluber’s certainly an option. It could be a lot of things, so we’re just kind of keeping it open. We found out the last series that that’s probably a good way to do it.”

As Francona mentioned, starting Kluber in Game 4 on short rest is a viable option, especially if the Indians are trailing in the series, although they started him on short rest in the ALCS up 3-0. Kluber was effective in the ALCS on short rest, but he was not quite as good as he was in his two previous postseason starts on regular rest. If it’s not Kluber in Game 4, the Indians could go back to rookie Ryan Merritt, who pitched well in Game 5 of the ALCS against the Toronto Blue Jays and could be asked to start a game in the World Series.

The wild card in Cleveland’s World Series rotation is Danny Salazar, who could return from injury and be included on the World Series roster. Salazar threw a three-inning simulated game on Sunday, telling reporters beforehand that he’s close to 100%. However, even if Salazar is on the roster, it’s unclear whether he’d be a candidate to start a game or be used out of the bullpen.

“We want to make sure that he’s 100 percent healthy,” Francona said. “Then, if he shows that, OK, then you take it another couple steps. Is he commanding? Can he help you win? Can he pitch an inning? Can he pitch two? What role can he fill? Because of his side day the other day, it’s progressed to the point now where I think we need to take a good, long look, because he looks pretty healthy. So that’s what we’ll do.”

The situations with Bauer and Salazar continue to make Cleveland’s rotation for the World Series unclear. That being said, the prognosis on each appears to be positive, which should make the Indians feel good about Bauer starting Game 2 and having good options in Game 4 and beyond. Of course, for the time being, beyond Kluber starting in Game 1, the Indians have little more than a rough outline for their World Series rotation.

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