Posted on September 28, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine

Cleveland Indians Corey Kluber

Image via cbssports.com

The Cleveland Indians got some good news and some bad news Tuesday night with regard to starting pitcher Corey Kluber, who left Monday’s start against the Detroit Tigers after just four innings with what the team called a groin issue. An MRI taken on Tuesday revealed that Kluber has a mild quadriceps strain. The timeline for his return to the mound is seven to 10 days, making Kluber questionable to pitch in the ALDS, although the team remains optimistic he’ll be ready to go when the playoffs begin.

It’s odd that the Indians described Kluber’s issue as a groin problem on Monday night, only to receive a diagnosis of a quad strain on Tuesday. Nevertheless, it is a favorable diagnosis for Cleveland, who clinched the AL Central title on Monday despite Kluber’s early exit.

“It’s a heck of a lot better than it could’ve been,” said Cleveland manager Terry Francona Tuesday night. “I think we were hopeful that he’d be OK, but again, when a guy’s out there competing, you don’t know how much they’re really hurting. But, this will give him a chance to hopefully have a bullpen session or two. Hopefully, it’ll maybe even help him. I think it’s certainly not bad news.”

Kluber is expected to meet with members of the team’s medical staff and Cleveland pitching coach Mickey Calloway in the next couple of days to work out a plan that will hopefully allow him to be ready to pitch in the ALDS. Game 1 of the ALDS is next Thursday, October 6, with Game 2 the following day. If the Indians can get Kluber back for either of those games, he would be able to be on regular rest to start in a possible Game 5.

“It wasn’t a ton, so that’s good,” said Callaway about the severity of Kluber’s injury. “I know it was mild and he should be OK at some point.”

Kluber’s teammates have also expressed relief at his favorable diagnosis. “With the adversity this team’s seen this year, that’s a huge sigh of relief,” said pitcher Mike Clevinger. “Not all of these stories have ended as happy as that one. It’s a good break for him to have to get ready for the postseason.”

Of course, if Kluber rushes back and re-aggravates his quad, he could be ruled out for the season, so the Indians would be wise to be cautious with Kluber. At the same time, if the Indians hope to advance deep into the postseason, they need Kluber on the mound. Carlos Carrasco has already been ruled out for the season after suffering a broken hand, while Danny Salazar is unlikely to return to the rotation due to continued elbow trouble, although he is throwing and could be used out of the bullpen in the playoffs.

Without a guarantee of Kluber’s availability, the Indians won’t be able to firm up their playoff rotation, although Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin are locks to start two of the first three games of the ALDS, with Cleveland holding out hope that Kluber can also start one of those three games. Of course, even if Kluber is able to return, the Indians may need Clevinger to start Game 4, even though the team admits he’s more effective pitching out of the bullpen. Clevinger was knocked out of Tuesday’s game after two innings and will spend the rest of the regular season in the bullpen.

The Indians don’t know who they’ll be playing in the ALDS as of yet, but regardless of the matchup, Cleveland’s postseason hopes may hinge on Kluber being available for either Game 1 or Game 2 of the ALDS. The team is optimistic that Kluber will recover from his strained quad in time. However, there’s still no guarantee he’ll be fully healthy and at the top of his game when the postseason begins.

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