CLEVELAND — Indians ace Corey Kluber was selected to the All-Star Game for the second consecutive season, and for the second straight year he won’t make a pitch.
Kluber, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, didn’t appear in 2017 because he started on the final day of the first half. This time around it’s because he is dealing with a right knee issue.
Kluber received a gel injection Friday and will be shut down for the next seven days.
“Obviously I would have liked to have pitched in the All-Star Game, but I think obviously the big picture, being healthy for the second half, is more important,” said Kluber, who still plans on joining teammates Trevor Bauer, Francisco Lindor, Jose Ramirez and Michael Brantley in Washington. “With the timing of it and having a break, kind of being able to do this and get some downtime to let it work and then not necessarily miss time, miss starts, things like that, it seemed to make sense. I think the idea is to hopefully get me back to where I’d like to be, where I feel normal, so to speak.”
Kluber said the knee has been bothering him for a few weeks and the issue has affected his mechanics, preventing him from pushing off his back leg. It’s the likely explanation for the right-hander’s subpar performance as of late.
Over his last six starts covering 34 innings, Kluber has allowed 19 earned runs on 31 hits — seven home runs — and seven walks.
“I think if we looked at the data, there are some things that have changed,” he said. “I don’t want to try to use it as an excuse or anything, but I think if anything it made it a little bit harder to constantly repeat the delivery the way that I would want to.
“My arm action has been the same, it’s just the release point is lower, not quite staying strong on the backside and kind of collapsing on it, which makes it harder to drive the ball downhill.”
The Indians have chosen not to place Kluber on the disabled list, believing he will be ready to go when the second half resumes. He is scheduled to pitch the fourth game out of the All-Star break — July 23 against the Pirates at Progressive Field.
Francona defended the Indians’ decision to keep pitching Kluber despite the knee problem.
“We always try to do the right thing. This isn’t a DL (situation),” he said. “We didn’t even have to really tell you guys he was getting a shot. After talking to him, I didn’t want him to go to the All-Star Game and get ‘OK, why are you not pitching?’ I just thought being honest was the best way to go about it. There’s a lot of times these things happen and nobody knows.
“As far as him pitching, he should be pitching. And there’s no reason to not pitch him.”
The Indians could have used Kluber’s roster spot to add a reliever but they feel they are covered in the bullpen for the final three games of the first half with Adam Plutko and Carlos Carrasco available.
They could promote a reliever from Triple-A Columbus and option Shane Bieber, Friday’s starter, back to the Clippers because they won’t need Bieber in the rotation again until the second half.
Andrew Miller (right knee inflammation) will face hitters in a live batting practice session today at Double-A Akron.
“I don’t know that we have to evaluate him,” Francona said of Miller, who is expected to begin a rehab assignment shortly after the All-Star break. “I think we’re just trying to get him repetition. Once he feels really good, which he’s getting there, then just repetition will get him where he needs to go. I watched him throw the other day. His stuff is tremendous. At times it looked electric and it was just a bullpen session. Now it’s just trying to ramp him up properly and being fair to him.”
Miller, who has been sidelined since May 26, threw from the mound Wednesday at Progressive Field in order for the Indians to gather Statcast information.
“It was good, which made us feel good,” Francona said. “He can go out there and throw with what he did the other day and be better than most relievers. Again, with the load he is going to carry, we gotta be fair and do this right.”
The Indians may have seen the last of left-hander Ryan Merritt, who was activated from the 60-day disabled list Friday and designated for assignment.
Merritt endeared himself to fans with a big performance in an ALCS-clinching Game 5 victory in Toronto in 2016. But according to Francona, Merritt’s velocity has dropped substantially since being cleared medically.
“Everybody has an emotional attachment to him because of that game in Toronto. Not just us, but fans, too,” Francona said. “(We’ll) see if he gets claimed (off waivers). If he doesn’t, we’ll try to get him going, see if we can ramp him back up to what he was. He’s never going to break the radar gun. But (his velocity is) still diminished from where he was.”
Back at it
Right-hander Josh Tomlin will begin throwing today, four days after being placed on the disabled list with a right hamstring strain.
It’s been a season of struggles for Tomlin (0-5, 6.98 ERA), who lost his spot in the rotation shortly into the season and has allowed 21 homers over 49 innings (23 games).
- The Indians entered Friday leading the majors in runs (286) and runs per game (6.09) at home.
- Yonder Alonso entered Friday batting .333 (13-for-39) with nine RBIs in July. He had 52 RBIs, accounting for a career high in the first half.
- Friday’s game was a sellout and the Indians announced that tonight’s game is, too.