CLEVELAND (AP) — A drone dropped into the AL Championship Series before the first pitch was even thrown.
No, this isn’t a pre-Halloween hoax.
Indians starter Trevor Bauer cut open his right pinkie while fixing one of the hovering objects he likes to build and fly. Bauer won’t start Game 2 of the AL Championship Series against Toronto, again diverting the Indians’ pitching plans for the playoffs.
Cleveland manager Terry Francona, who has had to juggle his rotation for weeks because of injuries, managed to keep a sense of humor about the latest — and by far the strangest — setback.
“‘It’s kind of self-explanatory,” Francona quipped at the start of his news conference. “Probably everybody in here probably at some point or another had a drone-related problem.”
All kidding aside, the Indians are dealing with yet another pitching issue after they lost starters Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar in the final month of the regular season.
Bauer, a quirky right-hander who pitched Game 1 of the ALDS against Boston, needed several stitches to close the cut on top of his right pinkie after he was sliced while repairing a propeller.
Josh Tomlin, who was scheduled to pitch Game 3 in Toronto on Monday, will replace Bauer on Saturday. Francona said Dr. Thomas Graham, one of the country’s top hand specialists, told him Bauer should be able to pitch in Game 3 when the best-of-seven series resumes at Rogers Centre.
Francona said he was in a shower Friday morning when he received an urgent text from Indians president Chris Antonetti telling him to call. He had no idea why.
“And you could have given me a lot of guesses, and I wouldn’t have probably got this one,” Francona said with a smile.
This was a new kind of flying in Cleveland, where midges have buzzed the field before in October.
Bauer’s penchant for drones is just one of the unique things about the 25-year-old, whose pregame routines, unorthodox training methods and analytical mind have rubbed some people the wrong way. While he’s somewhat different, Francona said he wasn’t upset with Bauer for getting hurt.
“This was not malicious,” Francona said. “He could have been opening a box in the kitchen. Things happen. I wish it wouldn’t have, but like I said, it wasn’t done maliciously, it wasn’t done by being silly. Just happened.”
Francona started ace Corey Kluber in Game 1 against Toronto’s Marco Estrada before turning to Tomlin, who pitched into the sixth inning of his postseason debut last week at Fenway Park as the Indians closed out a three-game sweep of Boston. The 31-year-old is the longest tenured player on Cleveland’s roster, and Francona wasn’t surprised when he didn’t bat an eye when told he would be pitching two days earlier than expected.
“J.T. is probably the easiest guy in the world,” Francona said. “He handles everything. He’s about as tough mentally as you’re going to find. He was excited.”
Tomlin said his preparation would change, it’s just that he’s taking he mound sooner than he thought.
“It really doesn’t affect me at all,” he said. “It will be on my fifth day, I’ll be on normal rest. When I found out I was going tomorrow, I stuck to the game plan that I was going to do Monday and go out there and compete and win a game.”
Bauer’s injury is just another hurdle for the Indians, who have shown remarkable resiliency all season in overcoming injuries to win their first division title since 2007.
“This isn’t the first obstacle we’ve had to overcome,” Tomlin said. “So face it head-on. And we’ve talked about it since day one of spring training. We’re never going to back down from a challenge. This is another challenge for us to accept and move forward. The next guy that comes up has to step up and do their part and hopefully it’s just a little bump in the road and we can continue to be successful.”
It’s somewhat fitting the Indians are turning to Tomlin in a time of need.
The right-hander was bumped from the rotation in August, when he went 0-5 with a 11.48 ERA. It’s only because of the injuries to Carrasco and Salazar that he’s back in the picture, and now he’s being counted on as the Indians try to get to their first World Series since 1997.
He’s had starts delayed, scratched or moved up before. Never, though, under these circumstances.
“I don’t know much about drones,” he said.