Tribe Notes: Kluber gets the nod, plus Hanley's future is up in the air

The Indians have their opening day starter

James Rapien
March 24, 2019 - 12:39 am
Feb 18, 2019; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber (28) throws during a spring training workout at the Goodyear Ballpark practice fields. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – Corey Kluber will get the ball on opening day for the fifth straight season. The Indians made it official on Saturday evening. 

Trevor Bauer will start game two, followed by Carlos Carrasco, Mike Clevinger and Shane Bieber. Manager Terry Francona said it came down to Kluber and Bauer, but opted to go with the more experienced pitcher. 

Kluber, 32, finished third in Cy Young voting last season. He's won the award two times and had 20-wins last season. Kluber allowed some runs this spring, but he was always the favorite to start on opening day. 

The fact that Bauer made it a tough decision is a testament to his ability. He started six games this spring, finishing with 32 strikeouts and four walks in 28 innings pitched. There was some speculation that Bauer was upset with the decision. The 28-year-old addressed those concerns on Twitter.

Bauer may have been disappointed, but it doesn't matter. Opening day is just another game. It's one of 162 and the Indians don't get bonus points if they win it.

Francona probably made this decision with the hope that Bauer can go deeper into games. That would give them the flexibility to monitor Kluber and Carrasco's innings and not put too much strain on a questionable bullpen. 

This team wants to make a run in October. If that's going to happen, then they need their rotation to lead the way. If this move helps preserve Kluber, puts Bauer in a position to succed and helps a shaky bullpen, then it's a wise move by Francona. 

Hanley's Future – Hanley Ramirez's future with the Indians is still a question mark. The 35-year-old signed a minor-league deal, not only hoping to make the roster, but to be the primary designated hitter.

"We talked to Hanley a little bit and told him there are possibly some moving parts and to please be patient," Francona said on Saturday. "He was unbelievably great about it. He goes 'Hey, I'm fine. I'll do whatever, just tell me where to go.' We'll have more information as we go. The sooner the better for all of us. I'm not sure sometimes how that works."

Ramirez's opt out date is March 25. The veterans' future could depend on a few factors, including the number of bullpen arms the Indians decide to keep. Will they have seven or eight relievers on the final roster? That could be the difference between Ramirez making the club or not. 

The Indians may also be waiting to see if there are any infielders they'd prefer to add instead. They could use another middle infielder with Jason Kipnis' injury and Francisco Lindor starting the season on the injury list.

Ramirez has posted a .278 batting average, with two home runs and eight RBI in 36 at-bats this spring. He's shown flashes at the plate, but Francona admits it's tough to make a judgement on a player based on their performance in March. 

“We’ve even tried to call in a couple of our scouts to watch because it’s so hard to get a read on guys,” Francona said last week. “They might be facing No. 89 (a minor league pitcher) in one at-bat. It’s just really hard.”

The Indians will have to make a decision soon. The regular season starts on Thursday, March 28 in Minnesota.