CLEVELAND -- Corey Kluber sat in front of his locker, soaking his middle finger in a cup of ice water.
The Indians will chase the Detroit Tigers and wild card without him.
Cleveland's starter will be sidelined at least one month -- and maybe longer -- with a sprained right middle finger, the same injury that sidelined teammate Zach McAllister for nearly two months earlier this season.
"Hopefully it doesn't take as long as it did for Zach," Kluber said. "Hopefully I can help in the last push for the playoffs."
Kluber injured his finger while throwing a breaking ball in the eighth inning on Monday night, when he shut out the first-place Tigers for 7 1-3 innings before closer Chris Perez blew it in the ninth and the Indians lost 4-2. The team said an MRI confirmed the diagnosis of a sprain, an injury the Indians have become very familiar with in recent years.
Along with McAllister, former Indians Adam Miller and Alex White also were shelved by sprained middle fingers.
Kluber said he didn't do anything abnormal while throwing the fateful pitch, but knew there was something wrong following the game. One of the first people he consulted with was McAllister, who had to deal with the freakish injury and understands the importance of being patient during the recovery.
"This happening two months apart from each other is kind of weird," McAllister said. "Hopefully his isn't as bad as mine and he'll be able to come back a lot sooner because he's a big loss. He has been pitching great all year. To have it happen now is a little rough, but we have to have everyone step up and pick him up."
The Indians said Kluber could miss as much as six weeks, a major blow to their playoff chances. They entered Wednesday's game against Detroit trailing the first-place Tigers by five games in the AL Central, and 1½ games out of a wild-card spot.
The right-hander has been one of Cleveland's most consistent starters. Kluber, who is 7-5 with a 3.54 ERA in 19 starts, will begin a throwing program as soon as he is symptom free.
"Corey has been exceptional," said Indians general manager Chris Antonetti, adding research showed there are 12 to 15 such finger injuries each year in the majors. "It's hard to overstate what he has meant to our team."
Even Tigers manager Jim Leyland felt bad for Kluber.
"That's a shame," Leyland said. "That guy is one of the most improved young pitchers I've seen. That kid was really coming on. He's got nasty stuff. I was really impressed with him."
Antonetti is optimistic Kluber will be pitching again in September, when the Indians hope to still be in the thick of the postseason hunt.
Rookie Danny Salazar will take Kluber's spot in the rotation. The right-hander, who carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning of his major league debut on July 11 against Toronto, is making his second career start on Wednesday against the Tigers, who have won 10 straight overall and have won nine of the past 10 against Cleveland.
Indians manager Terry Francona is excited to see how the 23-year-old does against one of baseball's best lineups and isn't concerned about the moment being too big for Salazar. The Indians had penciled Salazar into this start, pushing Ubaldo Jimenez back a few days just to get another look at the young fireballer.
"Whether he shuts them out or gets hit around or gets a no-decision, we think this kid is going to be really good," Francona said. "He's a young kind and it's a big situation, but I don't think we would have done this if we didn't think he could handle it."
As for the freaky finger injuries, Francona said there's no reason why they're happening disproportionately to the Indians.
"It's poor luck of the draw," he said. "We're not teaching them any delivery that puts them in danger. It just happened."