CLEVELAND — Corey Kluber will make what the Indians hope is a triumphant return Friday against the Mets.
The right-hander, who has missed over a month with a finger sprain, is scheduled to pitch in the series opener against New York. Scott Kazmir will follow.
Both are expected to pitch four or five innings, with Kazmir’s innings count climbing and the Indians wanting to ease Kluber back into the rotation.
“I think it has a chance to help us win, help both pitchers and our bullpen, so that’s kind of the thought behind it,” manager Terry Francona said.
Kluber, who hasn’t pitched since Aug. 6, worked a four-inning simulated game Monday at Progressive Field. Francona was pleased with the results, clearing the way for the pitcher’s activation from the disabled list Friday.
In 21 appearances (19 starts), Kluber has posted a 7-5 record and 3.54 ERA.
Kazmir is 7-7 with a 4.36 ERA in 24 starts, but has already logged 130 innings after pitching 64 innings in the Independent League last year and a combined 17 innings for the Angels organization in 2011.
• Outfielder Ryan Raburn (left calf) is expected to be activated from the disabled list today. Raburn, who hasn’t played since Aug. 18, hit against Kluber in the simulated game Monday.
• With Triple-A Columbus’ season coming to an end Monday, right-hander Josh Tomlin is expected to join the Indians over the coming days. Francona wasn’t sure whether the Indians would use him as a starter or reliever.
“We’re going to have to work through that,” he said. “How and when he pitches, we’ll figure that out.”
A Central Division title is most likely out of reach, but the Indians are very much alive in the American League wild-card race.
“We’ve played ourselves positively and negatively into a position where every game means so much,” said Francona, whose team stood 3½ games out of the race for the AL’s final playoff spot through Sunday. “I could think of a lot worse scenarios. I could think of a few better, but I could think of a lot worse.
“The fact that it’s September and every time we go out there it’s so meaningful. That’s good.”
After the Baltimore series, Cleveland has the benefit of playing 17 of its final 23 games against teams under .500, but Francona scoffed at the notion that the schedule is soft.
“Whoever said that hasn’t played Major League Baseball,” he said. “That doesn’t carry much weight with me. The teams that finish in last place are still going to win 70 games.”
Right-hander Chris Perez and his wife Melanie are due back in Rocky River Municipal Court today. Both are facing misdemeanor drug charges, stemming from a package of marijuana that was delivered to the house the couple rents in Rocky River.
The Indians entered Monday leading the American League with 16 shutouts. They were second in the majors behind the Dodgers (19).
• Cleveland entered Monday with an all-time 106-65 record on Labor Day and had won 11 of its last 13.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at (440) 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @CAwesomeheimer.