Indians facing crossroads in tough season


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CLEVELAND (AP) - Hours before the first pitch of Sunday's series finale against the Yankees, two-time Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber sprinted across the sun-soaked outfield inside an empty Progressive Field.

Except for getting the occasional glance from ushers and vendors preparing for the crowd, Kluber was alone.

When he finished a down-and-back between neon yellow cones, Kluber checked a stopwatch to make sure he was hitting his marks. In a day or two, his broken right arm will be re-evaluated to see if he can pitch for Cleveland again this season.

For now, his status remains uncertain.

Same as the Indians.

Approaching the halfway point of a season starting to snake sideways, it is hard to get a handle on the three-time defending AL Central champions, who will host next month's All-Star game.

Slowed by a too-often-limp offense, injuries to Kluber as well as starters Mike Clevinger and Carlos Carrasco and the curious case of All-Star third baseman José Ramirez, the Indians are at a crossroads.

They're 10˝ games behind the surprising Minnesota Twins. As the July 31 trading deadline nears, the Indians are facing some major decisions that could alter the franchise's path for years - or further alienate a fan base wondering why owner Paul Dolan slashed payroll and gutted the team's power with some surprising decisions last offseason.

At 33-32 heading into a two-game series starting Tuesday with Cincinnati, the Indians have been maddeningly inconsistent since opening day. They've won series from AL powers Boston, Houston, New York and Minnesota but struggled against the White Sox (5-7) and Royals (0-3).

"Kind of like the Midwest weather," second baseman Jason Kipnis said with a laugh. "80 and sunny one day, 50 and raining the next. Be that as it may, if that's the way we're going to be, the more good games we put together, the more confidence we'll build and hopefully we'll keep running with it."

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