Corey Kluber hopes to return to Indians this season
CLEVELAND — Corey Kluber’s broken right arm isn’t all that’s hurting him.
Less than a week after absorbing the impact of a 102 mph line drive during a start in Miami, Cleveland’s two-time AL Cy Young Award winner said Tuesday he still is coming to grips with his injury.
“You want to be out there with the team,” Kluber said, speaking for the first time since getting hit. “You want to be contributing. When it’s your day to pitch, you want to be able to take the ball every fifth day.”
That won’t happen for a while, but Kluber remains optimistic he will be able to return and pitch this season.
“I don’t have a plan not to pitch again,” he said. “Obviously, I don’t have a definitive timeline because it’s all depending on how things heal. But in my mind, I’m not looking at it as season ending.”
Sitting at a small table in a room across the hallway from the Indians’ clubhouse, Kluber occasionally peered at his arm, which has been fitted with a soft cast. The 33-year-old will undergo weekly X-rays before doctors will know whether his bone has healed properly and he can avoid surgery.
Until then, Kluber’s biggest challenge is staying positive and optimistic. It’s not so bad because the Indians are playing at home, and his teammates are around to support him.
Soon, though, Kluber will be alone.
“The initial stage where you’re not able to do much, you just kind of have to sit around and be at your body’s mercy,” he said. “That’s probably the most frustrating thing.”
It’s impossible to say with any certainty whether Kluber, who went 20-7 last season, will be on the mound again in 2019. But manager Terry Francona is confident the right-hander will do everything within his power to return to the rotation.
“We know he’s hurting that he’s not pitching,” Francona, a New Brighton native, said. “We also know him well enough that he’s going to do everything in his power to be as good as he can be as quick as he can be. That’s a given.”
Kluber wasn’t pitching at his usual high level before getting hurt, going 2-3 with a 5.80 ERA in seven starts. If there is a silver lining in his injury, it could be that he will be able to rest an arm that has logged over 200 innings in each of the past five seasons.
“We don’t want him out. But since he is out, that’s one way to look at it because he has shouldered a huge load the last five years,” Francona said. “Good pitchers do. So that’s one way you can certainly look at it. I think I said that about (Carlos) Carrasco a couple years ago when he pulled his hammy.
“When he came back he was stronger, his tank was so full because he hadn’t thrown a bunch of innings.”
Kluber won’t know if the time away will help until he’s back.
“Generally speaking, I tend to feel better the more I throw, the more we get into the season, so I don’t think that throwing every fifth day for six months has been a problem for me,” he said. “But, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how that is when we get there. I can’t say one way or the other.”
Kluber’s injury has further taxed Cleveland’s pitching staff, which is also without starter Mike Clevinger. He’s recovering from a back injury and will miss another month.
The Indians were counting on their pitching to carry them to a fourth straight AL Central title. But the club isn’t hitting, either, and Kluber’s injury has presented a new hurdle.
Kluber, though, believes the Indians have enough talent to win.
“Whichever 25 guys are in that room, that’s who you’re going to battle with that day and you have confidence that they’re there for a reason,” he said. “I don’t think that changes based on who is or who isn’t hurt and I think that’s the approach we take every day is we have 25 guys on our roster and trying to utilize those 25 guys the best we can to win that day.”