This season has already tested the Indians’ vaunted pitching depth, and the latest development regarding venerable righty Corey Kluber will do so further. He’s now slated for at least a two-week shutdown after leaving his most recent rehab start with an abdominal issue, Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports.
It had seemed that Kluber was finally nearing a return after a lengthy layoff owing to a forearm fracture. He’s closing in on three months away from the MLB roster. While it’s good that he hasn’t suffered another elbow ailment, the new malady is worrisome in its own right.
The trouble now is with the calendar. Kluber will need to ramp back up a bit once his rest period is over, all while the team keeps a close eye on his arm health and tries to ensure he does not make things worse in his core. While there’s an obvious desire to take things slowly, the opportunities for minor-league rehab work will expire in early September — though there could be some innings to work with if the division-leading Columbus Clippers can mount a Triple-A postseason run. Beyond that practical concern, there’s simply not much time remaining to build up a pitch count before the season ends.
It’ll be interesting to see how things progress. The Indians will be able to work with an expanded roster once Kluber is ready for action. But they’ll also need to feel good about inserting him into a postseason race in order to get him much-needed work.
The entire situation is loaded with risk and upside for the Cleveland organization. At his best, Kluber is one of the game’s preeminent starters. Even if he’s not capable of working as a full starter in the postseason, he might be a key piece of the roster. It’s stunning just how effective the Indians rotation has been despite the huge in-season changes it has undergone, but it’s not as laden with aces as was expected entering the year. In the background is Kluber’s contract, which includes a pair of options — $13.5MM and $14MM, each with $1MM buyouts — that could be a major organizational asset if he’s able to regain his form.