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Masterson gives Tribe weapon out of bullpen

Masterson gives Tribe weapon out of bullpen

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Indians feel fortunate to have sinkerballer Justin Masterson providing an extra arm in the bullpen right now. Their ninth-inning situation is murky, and Masterson provides another option when it comes to piecing together the final frames.

The question is whether he will return to the rotation if the Indians punch their ticket to the postseason.

"That's still the plan, in my mind," Masterson said prior to Friday's game against the Twins.

That bridge might be crossed at a later date. To even get to the point of mulling that decision, Cleveland first needs to hold its ground as one of the American League's two Wild Card teams. With what is at stake, and the fact that Masterson only recently returned after recovering from an injured left oblique, the Indians will continue to use him out of the bullpen.

Asked if Masterson would serve as a starter in a playoff setting, manager Terry Francona would not budge.

"The plan is for him to be a weapon," Francona said. "We'll see where that takes us. I think he'll enjoy every bit of that."

Francona announced on Friday that Chris Perez has been pulled from the closer role, naming Joe Smith, Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and Masterson as possibilities for the ninth. Masterson, who can handle more than one inning, discussed the situation with Francona on Friday.

"I will be in the sixth inning," Masterson said. "I will set up the setup to the setup to the closer."

Francona noted that he would not use Masterson in consecutive games without the blessing of the medical staff.

Masterson, who entered Friday with a 14-10 record and 3.50 ERA in 30 appearances, sustained his injury against the Orioles on Sept. 2. He returned to game action on Wednesday, spinning one shutout inning in a 7-2 win over the White Sox.

"The layoff was not too long," Masterson said. "It's almost like we've had a really nice rest, and we can do what we need to do. ... It's been a solid break for the shoulder and arm. They feel like they're a young pup."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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