Klu­ber to start Game 1 for In­di­ans

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Tom Withers

CLEVE­LAND >> Corey Klu­ber is back at the top of the In­di­ans’ make-it-up-as-they-go ro­ta­tion.

Cleve­land will start its ace in Game 1 of the AL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries against the Toronto Blue Jays, one of the few cer­tain­ties In­di­ans man­ager Terry Fran­cona has as his team plays for a spot in the World Se­ries.

Trevor Bauer, who started the opener of the Divi­sion Se­ries against Bos­ton, will pitch Game 2 and Josh Tom­lin will take the mound for Game 3 in Toronto on Sun­day. Af­ter that, Fran­cona has “pen­ciled in” Mike Clevinger for Game 4, but that plan could change de­pend­ing on what hap­pens in the first three games.

The un­cer­tainty is noth­ing new to Fran­cona, who has been forced to jug­gle his ro­ta­tion for weeks af­ter los­ing starters Car­los Car­rasco and Danny Salazar to in­juries.

Fran­cona’s de­ci­sion to send out Klu­ber first was ex­pected af­ter the right-han­der showed no signs of a late­sea­son quadri­ceps in­jury and pitched seven shutout in­nings in Game 2 against the Red Sox. Klu­ber lim­ited base­ball’s high­est-scor­ing team to three hits and ended any con­cerns about him not be­ing him­self in his first post­sea­son.

The In­di­ans will need Klu­ber and the rest of their staff to be on when they face the wild-card Blue Jays, who bat­tered Texas in their ALDS by hit­ting eight homers and scor­ing 22 runs.

“They’re good,” said In­di­ans pitch­ing coach Mickey Call­away. “They’re ex­cel­lent. Their whole ros­ter is pretty good, as far as swing­ing the bat. We’ve got to make pitches from Pitch 1. They’re a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent makeup than Bos­ton. They’re not go­ing to sit around and take a first-pitch strike. You can’t just groove a first pitch to them. You’ve got to throw qual­ity strikes right out the get-go, and then make sure you stay ahead. That’s go­ing to be the chal­lenge, mak­ing sure you throw qual­ity strikes early and see what hap­pens af­ter that.”

Klu­ber, who will face Toronto right-han­der Marco Estrada in the opener, went 18-9 dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son, bounc­ing back from a 16-loss sea­son in 2015. He was 0-1 with a 6.30 ERA in two starts against the Blue Jays.

While Fran­cona has had to mix and match with his starters, he won’t have Salazar on the ALCS ros­ter.

The In­di­ans sent the righthander to Ari­zona to build up stamina in hopes that he might be able to re­turn for this se­ries af­ter be­ing side­lined since early Septem­ber with fore­arm tight­ness. But Fran­cona said the 11-game win­ner is not ready, and the In­di­ans don’t want to rush him back.

“He’s do­ing pretty good,” Fran­cona said. “He’s not back yet where he’s throw­ing all his pitches or let­ting it go 100 per­cent. I think if we ask him to do that, he might be reach­ing right now. We’ve been pretty vo­cal about the first pri­or­ity is get­ting him back healthy. I think this proves it. We wouldn’t do that to some­body.”

The loss of Salazar was com­pounded when Car­rasco broke his right hand when he was hit by a line drive on Sept 17. Fran­cona has had to be cre­ative with his bullpen, us­ing eight re­liev­ers to com­plete the game in which Car­rasco got hurt.

“There’s not much our bullpen hasn’t ex­pe­ri­enced through­out the course of the year,” team pres­i­dent Chris An­tonetti said. “We’ve had all dif­fer­ent types of games, from the ex­tra-in­ning game in Toronto to the game when Car­los left af­ter two pitches. So, there’s not too much our guys haven’t han­dled and I think they’re pre­pared and ready to go pitch when it’s their turn, when­ever Tito calls upon them.”

RON SCHWANE — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Cleve­land In­di­ans man­ager Terry Fran­cona an­nounced Wed­nes­day that Corey Klu­ber will start Game 1 of AL Cham­pi­onship Se­ries against the Toronto Blue Jays.

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