CLEVELAND — Corey Kluber's return means Trevor Bauer is the odd-man out — out in the Indians' bullpen, that is.
Bauer, who has struggled since the All-Star break, will pitch in relief for at least the time being as the Indians are shortening their rotation while trying to win a wild-card spot.
"We talked to Trevor and told him in the near future he'll be in the bullpen starting tonight," manager Terry Francona said before Thursday's series finale against Kansas City. "We do envision him probably making starts this year. We don't know exactly when, so rather than him sit in limbo, we'll send him out to the bullpen because I think it will be good for him.
"When he does pitch, we'll give him a heads-up so he'll have a normal couple of days beforehand," he said.
Bauer has gone 3-7 with a 6.32 ERA in 12 second-half starts. He was 8-5 with a 3.76 ERA before the All-Star Game. The right-hander has won only twice in his last seven starts and has failed to get past the fourth inning four times in that span.
Francona said Bauer took the move in stride.
"He's fine," Francona said. "He said, 'I hope this isn't for forever,' and I said, 'Neither do we.'"
Bauer hasn't always been receptive to coaching. He's fiercely independent, and his unique training methods and warm-up routines may have painted him as a bit of an outsider. Francona said Bauer's relationship with pitching coach Mickey Callaway remains something all parties are working on.
"The hope is that this can be a collaborative effort," Francona said. "We've kind of told him, 'For that to be, you have to buy into it.' And I think that's an ongoing process. Not everybody's the same and we certainly respect that. You just try to do the best you can."
The Indians entered Thursday's game with Kansas City four games out of the second wild-card spot and can't afford anything but quality starts if they want to make the playoffs.
Kluber returned after missing time with a hamstring injury. The Cy Young winner's presence at the top of the rotation should give a boost to the Indians, who have won 14 of 20 and are seven games over .500 since May 1. Kluber will be followed in the rotation by rookie Cody Anderson, Carlos Carrasco, Josh Tomlin and Danny Salazar.