Come Thursday night, Cleveland will begin a four-game set with the Minnesota Twins. It’s an important series, as Cleveland enters trailing the Twins by two games in the American League Central. A series victory would give Cleveland its first share of the division lead since April 26 — 104 days ago — and would complete an impressive comeback from where the team was on June 2, when Cleveland trailed the Twins by 11 1/2 games.
The two sides will be seeing a lot of each other over the rest of the regular season. Including this four-game series in Minnesota, Terry Francona’s bunch will play the Twins 10 times over the next 36 games. That includes another three games in Minny, and then three more in Cleveland. There’s plenty of time, then, for head-to-head games to decide the division.
There’s also plenty of time left for Corey Kluber to make his impact felt.
Kluber, who hasn’t pitched in the majors since breaking his forearm on May 1, made his first rehab appearance on Thursday for Cleveland’s Triple-A affiliate in Columbus. He threw 41 pitches over three innings. The results don’t matter much, since it’s the first step in a process. Here’s what Kluber said afterward, according to MLB.com’s Matt Kelly:
“I can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Kluber. “It’s fun to get out there and compete, regardless of whether it’s a rehab start or a real game. I just need to continue to fine-tune things.”
There’s no timeline yet on Kluber’s return, but his 30-day rehab window is set to expire on Sept. 7. Why is that date important? Because it’s smack dab in the middle of the next Cleveland-Minnesota series. Presuming Kluber doesn’t suffer a setback, there’s a fair chance he pitches in that series — and, subsequently, in the last series between the two teams. (It’s also possible Kluber pitches in both series even if he return earlier than Sept. 7.)
Kluber’s seven starts this season weren’t as good as his usual work. He averaged five innings per pop, allowing 44 hits and 26 runs in 35 2/3 innings. He did fan more than 2 1/2 as many batters as he walked.
Cleveland’s return to the divisional race is even more impressive when you consider they’ve done this while getting just 19 total starts from Kluber and Carlos Carrasco, and while trading Trevor Bauer.Youngsters Shane Bieber, Zach Plesac, and Aaron Civale — but mostly Bieber and Plesac — have combined for 233 innings and a 3.13 ERA. For reference, last season Kluber threw 215 innings and posted a 2.89 ERA.