The Cleveland Indians starting rotation is a mess right now. I have already written at length about how it can no longer be trusted as the team’s anchor in the postseason, and Matt Schlichting had an out-of-the-box idea for how the Indians should utilize their pitching staff when the games really start to matter in October.
While the Indians are unlikely to use Matt’s idea (as awesome as it’d be to see happen), they are reportedly considering something besides a standard postseason rotation.
Sources: Cleveland discussing three-man postseason rotation with Kluber and Bauer on short rest, Tomlin/Clevinger piggyback or alternating.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) September 19, 2016
And, in case you don’t believe Jeff Passan for some reason, Indians beat writer Jordan Bastian essentially confirmed it with a quote from pitching quote Mickey Callaway. It’s not a guarantee the Indians will do it, but the idea is in their heads.
Callaway, on Sat said: "Kluber & Bauer can probably pitch every 4th day or whenever. ... Bauer's arm never hurts and Kluber's just a beast." https://t.co/PliVHEHOEr— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) September 19, 2016
Now that’s interesting. It’s technically a three-man rotation — see, I didn’t lie to you in the title — but in a more real sense it’s like two-and-a-half men. And as long as no one phones in their performance like everyone involved with Two and a Half Men did, it could work.
Lining up rotations can be tricky this time of the season, especially if you are a team fighting for a playoff spot and do not have the luxury of moving starters around just to prepare for a playoff series. Luckily, the Indians do have that luxury, even if they do not have to use it.
As it is, Corey Kluber will start tomorrow against the Kansas City Royals. Putting him on regular rest for the remainder of the season would land him right in Game 1 of the ALDS. Perfect. Bauer does not line up as easily, but he should be ready for Game 2, considering there are three of days between the Indians’ final game of the season on October 2 and the start of the ALDS on October 6.
Keeping Bauer on regular rest for the remainder of the regular season could have another minor issue on its own, however. Bauer’s last start of the regular season would be on September 28, with his next start coming on October 3 — after the season is over. If the Indians hold him out until Game 2 of the ALDS, that’s a full eight days with no game action. It’s late and baseball seasons are long, so maybe the rest will be good. But if the Indians want to, they could theoretically let Bauer get used to short rest and start him on the last game of the season.
Here is how it could shake out, assuming the Indians make the World Series and assuming the Indians stick with it the whole way:
- ALDS Game 1 (Oct 6): Kluber on full rest
- ALDS Game 2 (Oct 7): Bauer on full rest
- ALDS Game 3 (Oct 9): Clevinger/Tomlin
- ALDS Game 4 (Oct 10): Kluber on three days’ rest
- ALDS Game 5 (Oct 12): Bauer on full rest
- ALCS Game 1 (Oct 14): Kluber on three days’ rest
- ALCS Game 2 (Oct 15): Clevinger/Tomlin
- ALCS Game 3 (Oct 17): Bauer on full rest
- ALCS Game 4 (Oct 18): Kluber on three days’ rest
- ALCS Game 5 (Oct 19): Clevinger/Tomlin
- ALCS Game 6 (Oct 21): Bauer on three days’ rest
- ALCS Game 7 (Oct 22): Kluber on three days’ rest
- World Series Game 1 (Oct 25): Bauer on three days’ rest
- World Series Game 2 (Oct 26): Kluber on three days’ rest
- World Series Game 3 (Oct 28): Clevinger/Tomlin)
- World Series Game 4 (Oct 29): Bauer on three days’ rest
- World Series Game 5 (Oct 30): Kluber on three days’ rest
- World Series Game 6 (Nov 1): Clevinger/Tomlin
- World Series Game 7 (Nov 2): Bauer on full rest
There will, of course, be some variance somewhere in there, but strictly keeping to Bauer and Kluber as frequently as possible with Tomlin and Clevinger filling in only when needed, this is how the Indians’ postseason rotation would look.
One thing that sticks out, to me, is the tail end of the World Series. We are talking way down the line here, but unless the Indians are facing elimination, I would think they swap out Kluber on October 30 for Clevinger/Tomlin and have Kluber and Bauer pitch back-to-back to close it out. But, again, that’s way far out there and something is bound to change somewhere.
There is also the issue that this is a tall order for Bauer and Kluber. Bauer’s arm may never hurt and Kluber may be a machine, but neither of them have pitched on short rest before. And to ask them to do it six times in the span of a month (in Kluber’s case) or three times (in Bauer’s case) is a lot. Outside of flipping the baseball world upside and “starting” their relief pitchers, however, the Indians may not have any other options right now if they want to give themselves the best chance to win it all.