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Spring Training Notes 3/24: Corey Kluber in line to pitch Opening Day

One day after tossing seven innings of one-run ball in the Cactus League, Terry Francona penciled in Corey Kluber as the tentative starter for Opening Day on Apr. 3.

The last starting pitcher in 2016 will likely be the first to toe the rubber for the Cleveland Indians in 2017.

Corey Kluber is reportedly ready to start Game 1 for the third consecutive year after convincingly earning the win over the Colorado Rockies on Thursday. If Carlos Carrasco (swelling right elbow) is held out for precautionary reasons, then Kluber may have to anchor the pitching staff in the early stages of the season.

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- After pondering the decision throughout the month, Terry Francona saw enough out of Kluber to consider him ready for Opening Day. Kluber allowed one earned run and struck out eight batters in seven frames in what shaped out to be a rather characteristic outing for the 2014 American League Cy Young.

"There's no doubt in his mind he's pitching opening day," said Francona to reporters on Friday. "That's good enough for me."

There was originally hesitation in giving Kluber a substantial workload to start the year because he went 249.1 innings last campaign, 34.1 of which came in the playoffs. With no injuries or soreness to report, the 30-year-old does not see a reason to ease into the regular season rotation.

"I don't generally like to go out there and experiment in spring training anyways," Kluber said in regards to his preparation in February and March. "When I'm out there facing hitters, I like to just try to get outs." 

- The Tribe could employ a four-man rotation at the season's start, according to Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com. Three off-days in the month of April (6, 10, 24) would allow Kluber, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin to pitch on full rest while Carrasco strengthens his arm at extended spring training in Goodyear, Ariz.

"We haven't gotten the repetition we were hoping for," Francona said earlier this week after Carrasco's minor league outing. "We do have the ability to back him up a little bit in the season because of the off-day."

Carrasco started against the Cubs on Friday and showed no signs of injury. His final line: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R/ER, 2 BB, 2 K (four groundouts, one flyout).

- Michael Brantley was not in the lineup vs. Chicago due to a scheduled day off. The left-fielder expects to play both Cactus League contests this weekend.

- Rule 5 pick Hoby Milner was returned to the Phillies on Friday after recording a 9.00 ERA in seven spring training appearances.

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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