Spring Training Notes 2/19: Corey Kluber unsure for opening day

Manager Terry Francona did not officially name Corey Kluber the opening day starter on Sunday afternoon due to his extensive workload in the playoffs last October and November. It appears the 30-year-old will be eased into games this spring before a final decision is made for Apr. 3 against the Texas Rangers.

Playing into November can take a toll on a pitching staff.

For the Cleveland Indians, a 15-game postseason with a four-man starting rotation equated to an exhausted roster in need of off-season recovery. In particular, Corey Kluber stood out as one of the more fatigued hurlers in the rotation.

"Crashed pretty hard, I was definitely worn out after the fact," said Kluber after pitching in Games 1, 4 and 7 of the World Series. "Both mentally and physically, I think it's just exhausting mentally going through that extra month."

Despite Kluber's consecutive opening day outings from 2015-16, Tribe manager Terry Francona was non-committal when asked about his starter for Apr. 3 against the Texas Rangers.

Other notes of interest from Sunday's workout include Andrew Miller in the WBC and the competition for the final spot(s) in the bullpen.

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- The last Indians starter not named Corey Kluber to make an opening day start was Justin Masterson on Mar. 31, 2014 vs. the Oakland Athletics. While Game 1 of the campaign is still 43 days away, the Birmingham, AL native is not guaranteed to be the first pitcher to toe the rubber at Globe Life Park in Arlington, TX. 

"If he's not ready for Game 1, we can adjust and we're more than willing to," Francona said. "We all know opening day is a big deal, but we want him to position himself where he's ready to log as many innings as we need."

- Even though Miller's decision to play in the 2017 WBC is fully supported by Francona and the coaching staff, there is still concern over how many innings he logs prior to the regular season. 

"To represent your country - it's a huge honor, but I'd be lying if I said we're not going to worry about him," said Francona. "He was already a little ahead of where he used to be, and he's not going to throw back-to-back days the first round. And we fully support him and we're proud of him and our heart is in our throat."

- Seven appears to be the magic number for the Tribe's bullpen to open the year. Aside from Miller, Cody Allen, Boone Logan, Bryan Shaw, Zach McAllister and Dan Otero, there is at least one slot in the pen waiting to be claimed.

"My guess is, early on, we'll probably have seven," Francona said. "I think there's going to be some good competition for a couple jobs."

John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.


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