DETROIT — As most of the Indians returned from the All-Star Break, Justin Masterson threw a bullpen session during a one-hour optional workout at Comerica Park and is expected to make a rehab start on Sunday in Columbus.
Before Thursday’s workout, Masterson said that his right knee is feeling better and that during the last two bullpen sessions he has thrown a wider array of pitches. In his first two sessions it was strictly fastballs.
"We’ve done a great job of making the break beneficial. We’re putting our body in a better position and not putting any added stress on it," Masterson said. "Just a touch better on the mechanics and a couple things along with pounding the zone."
Masterson (4-6, 5.51 ERA) was placed on the disabled list on July 7 after failing to work long than four innings in his last three starts. In those outings, the right-hander allowed 13 earned runs in nine innings.
With Masterson pitching on Sunday, that means the earliest he could return to the rotation is July 25 in Kansas City.
Before the Indians went on the break, it was announced that Trevor Bauer would start on Friday and Corey Kluber in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader. Francona finalized the rest of the series by announcing that Zach McAllister will pitch Saturday’s second game and Josh Tomlin on Sunday.
McAllister was optioned to Columbus on Tuesday but due to the doubleheader, he can be used as the 26th man. When McAllister was sent down, the corresponding roster move wasn’t finalized but it will be on Friday when C.C. Lee is called up.
McAllister is not eligible to rejoin the 25-man roster until next Friday. T.J. House will rejoin the rotation Monday in Minnesota and Danny Salazar is likely to be called up for a start on Tuesday.
House pitched five shutout innings for Mahoning Valley on Wednesday while Salazar is 3-6 with a 4.03 ERA in 10 starts for Columbus. Salazar pitched on Thursday against Indianapolis and gave up no runs on three hits with five walks and five strikeouts. He threw 98 pitches in 5 2/3 innings with 56 strikes. House is in Columbus for the next couple days working on his normal routine between starts.
"We’re trying to maximize the roster. There are a lot of moving parts but (general manager) Chris (Antonetti) and his staff have done a good job of making this work," Francona said.
Getting consistency out of the rotation will be a key if the Indians are going to have success the second half of the season. A lot of that though will depend on if Masterson is able to bounce back. The Indians (47-47) have the third-worst ERA among its starters in the AL at 4.49.
"When I am doing well everyone else is having a good time and playing well," Masterson said. "I have to go out and be me and a lot of great things will happen. Guys are already excited and done a good job of stepping up."