Cleveland planning to start rookie Merritt in Game 4 or 5

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TORONTO >> Ryan Merritt is preparing to take his turn in the postseason spotlight.

The Indians plan to start the rookie left-hander in the AL Championship Series, although it's not completely certain when. Manager Terry Francona said Merritt would pitch either Game 4 or 5 against Toronto, depending on how Trevor Bauer's injured finger held up in Game 3 on Monday night.

"It's awesome that they trust me," the 24-year-old Merritt said. "I'm just going to go out there and have fun, enjoy it, and try to give my team the best chance to win."

Francona said Monday if there was no problem with Bauer, Merritt was in line to start Game 4 and everyone else would stay on normal rest, leaving Bauer in a position to start a potential Game 7.

Francona said if there was a "malfunction" with Bauer's finger in Game 3, then Corey Kluber could come back on short rest for Game 4 on Tuesday and also be available for a potential Game 7. In that scenario, Merritt would pitch Game 5 — if there is one. Cleveland leads the series 2-0.

Merritt's major league resume consists of 11 innings in the regular season this year. He made one start, holding Kansas City to a run and three hits in five innings Sept. 30.

The Indians have had to juggle their rotation because of injuries to Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar, and Bauer had to be pushed back from Game 2 to Game 3 after cutting his finger on a drone. Those problems have left Francona in some tough spots, even as his team keeps winning.

"I think we're just trying to be organized," Francona said. "And it helps when every single player we've talked to just says, 'OK."'

Salazar, who is not on the ALCS roster because of forearm issues, threw to hitters on the field at the end of Cleveland's workout Sunday.

"We're not ready to activate him but he is doing much, much better," Francona said. "Like we said before, the first goal was to get him completely healthy, and then when that happens we'll see where and if it leads to him helping us in a game."


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