Corey Kluber (lower back strain) is nearing the end of his first stint on the disabled list since August 6, 2013, a season in which Justin Masterson, Scott Kazmir and Ubaldo Jimenez were ahead of him in the starting rotation.
Times have changed and the ace of the staff is back to full health.
The Indians will reportedly send Kluber to Triple-A for a rehab outing on Thursday, less than one week after he made encouraging progress in a three-inning simulated game and bullpen session on Saturday and Monday respectively at Progressive Field. If all goes according to plan, the right-hander could return to the Tribe by the end of the month.
Kluber went 3-2 with a 5.06 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and .262 opposing batting average in 37.1 innings (six starts) before he landed on the DL for the first time in over 1,300 days. The lingering back pain he experienced this spring carried over to his 55-pitch outing on May 2 in Detroit, the day before he was shut down from pitching off the mound.
The 31-year-old struggled to keep the ball down in the zone as shown by his career-high 17.9% home run to fly ball rate and career-low 39.4% groundball rate. Couple those stats with 3.13 walks per nine innings and Kluber’s uncharacteristic start to the campaign was justified by the injury, especially through his slight decline in pitch velocity (first chart below) and overall performance (second chart below).
With Mike Clevinger vying for a spot on the team, manager Terry Francona will face a tough decision in the coming weeks in regards to who fill out the backend of his rotation.
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.