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Terry Francona taking rotation 'game by game,' mulls possibility of Corey Kluber on short rest

CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona said Saturday that he plans to go "game by game'' with his pitching rotation for the rest of the American League Championship Series. That appears to include the possibility of bringing back staff ace Corey Kluber on short rest in a Game 4 on Tuesday in Toronto.

The Indians have already suffered one disruption in the ALCS, when Josh Tomlin had to be moved up to Game 2 on Saturday. Trevor Bauer was bumped back to Game 3 on Monday at Rogers Centre after cutting his finger while doing routine maintenance on his drone.

Francona has three possible options for Game 4: He can start Mike Clevinger, who went five innings his last start against Kansas City on Sept. 22; he can go with Ryan Merritt, who spent most of this season pitching for Triple-A Columbus; or he can go back to Kluber, who threw 100 pitches over 6⅓ innings in Cleveland's 2-0 victory over Toronto in the series opener at Progressive Field on Friday.

Whatever route Francona takes, Cleveland's bullpen will probably be forced to log a heavy load in at least one game in the series.

"We've talked about not just Game 4, but Games 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, because there's a little ambiguity there with Trevor and his finger and Clevinger not being stretched out,'' Francona said. "So I think there are some options for us moving forward.

"The one thing we don't want is to make a decision that we think puts our team in a good spot if the pitchers don't feel that way. So we'll keep communicating with them, and we'll do what we think is in our best interest. But it can't just be for one game, because there's always a trickle-down effect.''

The Indians have been in a bind since starters Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar went down with injuries in September. Bauer's freak injury further complicated matters, but the Indians think he'll be ready to go by Tuesday.

The cut is on the outside of Bauer's right pinky finger and doesn't appear to have any impact on his ability to grip the ball. Francona said Cleveland's medical staff considered putting in more stitches to ensure that the cut heals properly but decided that wasn't necessary.

"Even in a day's time, [the doctors] thought it was already progressing very well,'' Francona said. "I think he's going to be just fine.''

Kluber, the 2014 AL Cy Young Award winner, has pitched 13⅓ shutout innings and won both of his postseason starts against Boston and Toronto after missing 10 days with a quadriceps strain. He has never started a game on short rest in the big leagues, but he made it clear before the series began that he's receptive to the possibility.

"Yeah, definitely,'' Kluber said before Game 1. "I think we're at the point in the year where anybody is going to do anything they can to help the team win. If that means starting on short rest, pitching out of the bullpen on short rest, if it comes down to it and that's what the team needs to get a win, then I'm all for it.''