MINNEAPOLIS -- Indians manager Terry Francona does not want to mess with a good thing. That is why he plans on keeping left-hander Scott Kazmir teamed with backup catcher Yan Gomes for the foreseeable future.
"He's done such a good job," Francona said of Gomes, "and it seems like he got [Kazmir] on a roll. ... Unless something happens, we'll keep doing it. And we want Gomes to play."
A quick glance at the numbers makes it easy to see why Francona likes the pairing.
In 11 starts with Gomes behind the plate, Kazmir has posted a 2.95 ERA with a .630 opponents' OPS over 64 innings. In six starts with catcher Carlos Santana, the left-hander has a 7.39 ERA to go along with a 1.041 opponents' OPS across 28 innings.
Gomes has caught each of Kazmir's last six starts, during which the pitcher has gone 2-0 with a 1.95 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP in 37 innings. During that stretch, Kazmir has ranked first among American League starters (minimum 25 innings) in opponents' on-base percentage (.229) and second with an average of 7.78 baserunners per nine innings.
"He's a great catcher," Kazmir said. "I just feel like we've clicked and everything. Not to say anything about one or the other -- we just ended up going on a consecutive streak. It's just one of those things. He's knowledgeable about the game. He really is. He calls a great game and receives the ball really well."
Francona said he does not typically like to fall into a situation where a pitcher has a personal catcher (pairing knuckleballer Tim Wakefield with catcher Doug Mirabelli in Boston was an exception). There are times, however, when doing so makes sense in light of the production.
"I've never been real big on doing that," Francona said, "because you kind of pigeonhole yourself with a lineup."
When Francona starts Gomes, the manager usually shifts Santana to first base or designated hitter. That causes a chain reaction that forces one of the club's regulars to the bench. One of the positives of starting Gomes in games, though, is that it builds in time for the young catcher to play.
"When he first came up," Francona said, "I remember saying, 'We'll keep him here as long as it doesn't get in the way of his development.' And he's playing enough where he's OK."
Tribe does not expect hip soreness to sideline Kluber
MINNEAPOLIS -- Corey Kluber has emerged as one of the most reliable arms in the Indians' rotation this season. The right-hander is also poised to play an important role down the stretch for a Cleveland club trying to stay in the postseason hunt.
Under the circumstances, Indians manager Terry Francona did not want to take any chances when Kluber experienced soreness in his left hip in a 3-2 loss to the Twins on Saturday. Kluber was pulled from the game after turning in five strong innings.
"If he gives up runs because of that, I would've kicked myself," Francona said. "This kid is obviously important to what we're doing moving forward."
Francona does not believe that Kluber's hip issue is serious enough to sideline the pitcher for an extended period of time. With an off-day coming on Thursday, Cleveland could push Kluber's next scheduled start back by a day or two, or skip his turn in the rotation and bring him back for a start against the White Sox on July 30.
"I talked to [head athletic trainer Lonnie Soloff] during and after the game," Francona said. "I don't think this is anything that's going to [cost him much time]. We have the off-day coming, so if we need to buy him an extra day or two, we could. But I don't think anybody thinks it'll get in the way."
Kluber kept the Twins off the board and ended with seven strikeouts, giving up three hits and two walks. The right-hander logged 93 pitches, including 55 strikes. Kluber, who indicated that the hip discomfort first flared up in his start on July 12, said that he pitched with soreness throughout the game on Saturday.
The Twins scored three runs in the sixth inning after Kluber's exit.
As Kluber got deeper into his outing, Francona felt the pitcher's delivery was being affected by the injury.
"I would've liked to go more than five innings," said Kluber, who has a 2.22 ERA in July. "But [Francona] said he wanted to get me out of there before it got to the point where I hurt myself. ... He said I was kind of starting to alter my delivery a little bit, throwing with a little more arm and not using my legs."
Kluber is 7-5 with a 3.69 ERA in 18 appearances. Dating back to May 15, the right-hander has posted a 5-3 record and a 3.13 ERA across 77 2/3 innings, during which he has compiled 81 strikeouts against 18 walks.
Francona optimistic regardless of potential trades
MINNEAPOLIS -- Indians general manager Chris Antonetti is exploring multiple avenues for potentially upgrading his team via trade. Manager Terry Francona has been in constant communication with the general manager throughout the process.
Francona does not believe the team necessarily needs to make a deal leading up to the July 31 Trade Deadline.
"I enjoy our team, and that's a good feeling," Francona said on Saturday. "There's been a time or two when I haven't always felt that way -- not about this team -- and that's not a good feeling. I guess what I'm saying is, regardless of what happens, I'm fine.
"I like what we have, and I think better days are ahead. That's just how I feel. There are no guarantees, but that's how I feel."
Cleveland's top priority appears to be pursuing help for the bullpen, especially to shore up the club's left-handed relief. The Indians have also been exploring the starting pitching market, and have been linked to reports about Cubs right-hander Matt Garza. Chicago has reportedly asked for third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, though it is highly unlikely that the Tribe would part with him as part of the deal.
Francona said he does not pay much attention to the rumors.
"I don't get too caught up in all the rumors and everything," Francona said. "I have an inside view of what's going on. So I know what isn't going on more often that not. And I really enjoy this team a lot. I know Chris is always trying to make us better -- that's his job."
Francona added that there are coveted prospects in the Tribe's system that he would hate to see included in any trade.
"The one thing I never really want to do is, I don't ever want to press [Antonetti] to do something," Francona said. "I know he cares, but I also know that we have some prospects in our Minor Leagues that we don't want to lose, and I feel really strongly about that. I know he does, too.
"This is a good group to see how good we can get. When we play the game right, we can win."
McAllister slated for Tuesday start in Seattle
MINNEAPOLIS -- Indians starter Zach McAllister has cleared the final hurdle in his comeback.
On Saturday, McAllister completed a bullpen session with no lingering issues from the sprained right middle finger that kept him on the disabled list for the past six weeks. Indians manager Terry Francona said McAllister is scheduled to be activated for a start on Tuesday in Seattle.
"He's all set," Francona said. "He's done a really good job with everything we've asked. He's good to go."
McAllister was placed on the 15-day disabled list on June 8 due to the finger injury, which involved a sprained pulley. The right-hander experienced the most discomfort while throwing his curveball, and he did not use the pitch at all during his last start on June 2 against Tampa Bay.
Over the course of the past six weeks, McAllister advanced through a throwing program, but he held off on throwing the curve until the past couple of weeks. The starter tested out the pitch in six shutout innings for Triple-A Columbus in a rehab outing on Thursday and threw it again with no problems during Saturday's mound session.
"He's been great," Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said. "Obviously, that's one of the things that makes him a good pitcher, is his ability to realize where he's at and what he's got and what he's doing. He did a good job throughout the rehab process of not trying to push it too much and taking advice from the trainers. He did it the right way."
In 11 starts this season, McAllister has gone 4-5 with a 3.43 ERA across 65 2/3 innings, during which he compiled 45 strikeouts against 22 walks. The right-hander went 0-2 with a 6.52 ERA in his last two starts while dealing with the finger injury. In the previous nine turns, McAllister was 4-3 with a 2.89 ERA.
Entering Saturday, the Indians rotation had gone 12-12 with a 4.55 ERA while McAllister was on the disabled list. His replacements (Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar) went a combined 1-3 with a 7.96 ERA in 31 2/3 innings over that stretch.
"We forced him to be patient," Francona said of McAllister. "We tried to press upon him the fact that, if he did this right, it's something you can move on from and continue his progression, trying to see how good he can get, as opposed to fiddling around with this thing and having a problem.
"He did a really good job. He was really honest. He worked his [tail] off. It's kind of exciting that he's back, ready to go."
Quote to note
"I've been impressed. I didnt know Cabby that well coming in here. As an opponent, I thought he was a good player. I didn't realize, though, how good a player he is. His batting average probably isn't where he wants it right now, but I didn't realize quite how good a baseball player he is. He sees the game pretty good. And as the game gets tighter, you see him taking more charge. I like that." --Francona on shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera
• Gomes threw out Pedro Florimon on a steal attempt in the third inning of Friday's 3-2 loss to the Twins. Entering Saturday, Gomes led the Major Leagues with a 55 percent caught-stealing percentage (11-of-20).
• Indians rookie reliever Cody Allen entered Saturday with a 2.21 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 40 2/3 innings this season. Over his past six appearances, the hard-throwing right-hander had a 0.00 ERA over 5 1/3 innings, during which he posted 11 strikeouts against just two walks.
• Heading into Saturday's outing, Kluber had gone 4-1 with a 2.44 ERA in his seven starts immediately following a team loss. In 48 innings in those outings, Kluber had 50 strikeouts against eight walks with only 13 earned runs.
• Bart Swain, the Indians director of baseball information, took part in a pregame softball Home Run Derby at Target Field. Swain ended with zero home runs, while Dustin Morse, the director of baseball communications and player relations for the Twins, launched three moonshots.