By Will Graves
AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND — Terry Francona’s message to Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Josh Tomlin: You can get all the rest you need over the winter.
The Cleveland Indians manager announced Wednesday he plans to use his top three starters on three days’ rest for the duration of World Series.
Kluber, who dominated the Chicago Cubs in a 6-0 victory in Game 1, will start Game 4 on Saturday in Wrigley Field. Barring any setback, Bauer and Tomlin will go in Games 5 and 6, if necessary, with Kluber potentially available for Game 7.
“We tried to look at our team and how we best set up, and what’s in our best interest to win four games before the Cubs do, and that’s how we came to this conclusion,” Francona said.
Francona admitted that was the plan all along when he pulled Kluber in the top of the seventh on Tuesday night after watching his ace baffle the Cubs over the course of 88 pitches.
“He’s all set to pitch (Game 4),” Francona said. “That was probably Plan A.”
One Kluber set in motion perfectly by keeping Chicago in check before giving way to reliever Andrew Miller after allowing a leadoff double in the seventh with the Indians up 3-0. Kluber was hardly in trouble, but Francona wanted to preserve Kluber for later down the line.
“You start getting deeper into the game, and if they mount a rally, getting out of that, you’re really exerting,” Francona said. “You’re up around 100 (pitches) or so, I think that’s unfair to ask him to come back after doing that.”
Kluber’s already come back on three days’ rest once during the playoffs. He shut down Toronto in Game 1 of the ALCS while throwing 100 pitches over 6 1/3 innings and returned to the mound for Game 4, allowing two runs in five innings of what is still Cleveland’s only loss of the postseason.
The lack of other options — likely Danny Salazar (who hasn’t pitched since Sept. 9) or rookie lefty Ryan Merritt — combined with Kluber’s dominance and a seemingly elastic bullpen that includes the overpowering Miller hastened Francona’s decision.
“I think the idea that (Kluber) has already done it, I think he’ll be a lot more at ease with it,” Francona said.
Kluber went over 200 innings in the regular season for the third straight year, but did get a bit of a break in September when the Indians skipped one of his starts so he could deal with a minor quadriceps issue. The way Francona figures it, Kluber will have all winter to relax.
The same goes for Bauer and Tomlin, provided Bauer’s sliced right pinkie holds up after cutting it while repairing a drone before his scheduled start in Game 2 of the ALCS. The Indians pushed his start back a day, but Bauer only made it 21 pitches before the blood from the wound forced him out of the game.
“Trevor’s a guy that can pitch all the time,” Francona said. “Tomlin, we were a little concerned. He’s been pitching great but he doesn’t have the biggest frame in the world. But he hasn’t pitched that much, so I think we’re OK.”