CLEVELAND -- Indians pitcher Corey Kluber continued to compete while a sprained right middle finger kept fellow starter Zach McAllister off the pitcher's mound for about seven weeks earlier this season. Now, it's Kluber's turn to watch and heal.
But the Indians don't expect Kluber to be sidelined for quite so long. A day after placing Kluber on the 15-day disabled list with his own sprained right middle finger, Cleveland announced Wednesday that he was expected to miss four-to-six weeks.
Also, the club announced that prospect Danny Salazar, who was recalled from Triple-A Columbus on Wednesday for what was originally going to be a spot start against Detroit, will fill Kluber's spot in the starting rotation.
"Corey's been exceptional," general manager Chris Antonetti said. "It's hard to overstate what he's meant to our team, but at the same time, we have a guy in Danny Salazar that will come up and get an opportunity to pitch.
"He's a really talented player that we think is ready to contribute up here. Now, we'll have to rely on Danny and the other four guys to carry the load until Corey is ready to come back."
Kluber realized something was wrong with his finger during the eighth inning Monday, when he threw a curveball to leadoff hitter Jose Iglesias. He retired Iglesias and allowed a single to Ramon Santiago before exiting the game, in which he held Detroit to six hits and no runs in 7 1/3 innings.
"It was kind of something weird," Kluber said. "I don't know how to describe what I felt. And then it just kind of got stiff, felt like it kind of filled up a little bit."
The Indians ordered an MRI on Tuesday morning, when Kluber woke up and his finger "kind of felt jammed." The results of the exam confirmed a sprain, which will keep Kluber from throwing until his symptoms dissipate. The righty had never spent time on the disabled list before Tuesday.
Through 21 games (19 starts), Kluber is 7-5 with a 3.54 ERA. Over his past 16 outings, he has a 5-3 record and 3.07 ERA.
Kluber's injury helped Salazar find a more permanent spot in the rotation. The Indians will get another look at their No. 6 prospect on Wednesday, and more times after that.
"Before Corey went down," manager Terry Francona said, "we had slotted Danny in this spot, and that was for competitive reasons, because we think he can come up and help us win."
In his only career Major League outing, Salazar limited Toronto to a run and two hits across six innings on July 11. Cleveland toyed with the notion of including him in a temporary six-man rotation down the stretch, but Kluber's injury meant "that probably went out the window," said Francona.
Sturdy contributions from Salazar down the stretch would go a long way in making up for the loss of Kluber. The Indians are confident his absence will not last as long as that of McAllister, partly because the club acted more swiftly in this instance.
"I'm optimistic that Corey will pitch in September," Antonetti said. "We'll have to see how he's feeling. Different people recover at different rates. The most important thing in the first step of the process is making sure he's not feeling any symptoms, not feeling any pain, tightness.
"Once that subsides, then we can start ramping up his throwing."
The Indians were very cautious in handling McAllister. They intend to treat Kluber with the same prudence.
"I don't know exactly what the details to 'symptom-free' means," Kluber said. "I just got to be patient with it until it gets to that point and not try to force it so it doesn't turn into something more serious."
Aviles dubs Indians bench the 'Goon Squad'
CLEVELAND -- The Indians' bench has played an important role in the team's turnaround this season. The group has produced to the point that it has been in need of a good nickname.
Tribe utility man Mike Aviles believes he found it.
"Were the 'Good Squad,'" Aviles said with a grin.
On Wednesday, Cleveland locked up one of its goons, utility man Ryan Raburn, to a two-year contract that includes a club option for 2016. Prior to this season, the Indians also signed Aviles to a two-year deal that runs through next season.
That has created some stability for a bench that -- combined with the efforts of veteran Jason Giambi and backup catcher Yan Gomes -- has been an integral portion of the team's roster this year.
"It's been a big part of it," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said of the bench. "Having the ability to turn to guys like Ryan Raburn and Mike Aviles and Yan Gomes and Jason Giambi, those guys have all filled very meaningful roles on our team. We've had to withstand some injuries, especially early on to some of our position players, and those guys stepped in and did a tremendous job"
Entering Wednesday, the foursome of Aviles, Giambi, Gomes and Raburn had combined to hit .264 (191-for-723) with a .326 on-base percentage and a .462 slugging percentage. The group had collectively produced 33 home runs, 61 walks, 75 extra-base hits and 118 RBIs, or an average of one RBI every 6.1 at-bats.
"We always joke around saying we've got the best bench in the league," Aviles said. "The beauty of what we've been able to do on the bench is stay sharp, and I think [manager Terry Francona] knows how to use the bench properly to the point where everybody doesn't get a chance to really lose their timing. You stay fresh. You're getting pretty regular at-bats, so when he does call upon us, we're able to produce, as well as give the everyday guys a breather."
Francona said an important element to Cleveland's bench is the versatility of Raburn and Aviles, who can each play multiple infield and outfield positions.
"They make a 25-man roster seem maybe a little bit bigger," Francona said.
And now they have their nickname.
"I think one of you came up with 'Bench Mob,'" Raburn said to reporters. "I think the 'Goon Squad' fits us a little better. We ain't nothing but a bunch of characters on the bench."
Quote to note
"You don't get any extra credit, or less credit, for any win against any other team. So on the flip side, you could say, 'The Tigers have been great against the Indians, but why haven't they been better against other teams?' In the end, what matters is just how many wins we have and how many wins they have."
-- Antonetti, on Cleveland's 3-11 record against Detroit entering Wednesday
• On Wednesday, Antonetti addressed the fact that closer Chris Perez did not speak with reporters after blowing a save against the Tigers on Monday. Antonetti echoed the recent comments of Francona, noting that it has been Perez's choice not to speak to local reporters for the past several weeks.
"He made the choice about a month ago to just not be available," Antonetti said. "Our preference would be, as [Francona] said the other day, is to have everybody available and accountable each and every day. But, it's a choice Chris made and there's not a whole lot we can do about it.
"The challenge for any player is when your teammates have to speak on your behalf," he added. "I think any time another player is put in a position to answer questions for someone else, it's not the ideal dynamic."
• In light of the two-year contract extension for Raburn, Antonetti was asked if the Indians might consider trying to sign lefty Scott Kazmir before he hits free agency this winter. Through 20 starts, Kazmir has gone 7-4 with a 3.89 ERA, 100 strikeouts and a .242 opponents' batting average across 111 innings.
"I wouldn't want to comment on anyone in particular," Antonetti said. "What I can say about Scott is how much we appreciate what he's done for the team this year, how far he's come, the work he's put in. All of those are great things, and he's re-established himself as not only a Major League pitcher, but a very successful one. I know he'll have a lot of opportunities this winter. At that point, we'll probably explore it."
• Triple-A Columbus right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was dealing with an oblique injury earlier this season, has been on a strong run of late for the Clippers. Over his past five starts, Dice-K has gone 3-1 with a 2.06 ERA, with 30 hits allowed, 31 strikeouts and five walks in 35 innings.
"He's improving," Antonetti said. "He put the injury behind him. Since he's come back from that, he's been steadily building. He's made progress."
• Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin, who is on the disabled list while recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, was slated to log two innings in a Minor League rehab start for Double-A Akron on Wednesday. Given the loss of Kluber, Francona said Tomlin could potentially factor into the rotation plans later this season.
"He could [factor into September]," Francona said. "We're going to stretch him out as much as you kind of can, with the thought in mind that you don't know. Before [Tuesday], we had Klubes inked in, ready to go every five days. Things happen, so you try to be prepared for everything."
• The Indians have made a slight change to their rotation. The club initially lined up Ubaldo Jimenez to start on Friday and Kazmir on Saturday against the Angels. They have since been flip flopped, which allows Kazmir to come back on normal rest to start on Aug. 14, one day before Cleveland's next team off-day.
• As expected, the Indians optioned right-hander Matt Langwell to Columbus on Wednesday to clear room on the active roster for Salazar. Langwell had been promoted from Triple-A on Tuesday to offer bullpen insurance after Kluber landed on the 15-day disabled list.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. Mark Emery is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.