The 2019 season hasn't been kind to Indians starter and two-time Cy Young winner Corey Kluber. Due to a broken forearm, Kluber has only managed seven starts and pitched to a 5.80 ERA in those outings. He was attempting to make a comeback via a minor-league rehab assignment but had to be after just one inning with diminished velocity.
The Indians provided the following update on Tuesday:
Corey Kluber was removed from the game on Sunday, August 18 after experiencing tightness to his left abdomen during the first inning.
He was examined in Cleveland and imaging confirmed an internal oblique strain.
He has been shut down from throwing and will begin a rehab program. His time frame for return to game activity is to be determined and he will be re-examined in two weeks to determine his readiness to resume throwing.
The timing here is tight. The minor-league seasons wrap up around Labor Day weekend, so after that, a rehab assignment is out. Kluber could still try to work himself back by taking abbreviated starts with the big-league club in September and it's a bit more feasible with expanded rosters, but the Indians figure to be in a heated race for the AL Central title and risks won't be advisable.
Thanks to how well Aaron Civale has pitched behind Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac in addition to the Inidans have recently gotten on Carlos Carrasco -- and this is going to sound so weird, given what we've grown accustomed to seeing from Kluber -- the Indians don't desperately need Kluber or anything. Still, getting the best version of him before the playoffs would be quite a boost.
The timing of this is bad for Kluber. There's a club option for $17.5 million for next season and we know ownership didn't open its wallet last offseason. There's decent likelihood that the Indians decline the option and Kluber winds up without many legitimate suitors in free agency. He'll be 34 years old next season and he was already showing signs of hitting his age-related decline.