"We're hoping this is the last one," Francona said before the game against the Royals, a 6-4 loss. "I think we'd like him to kind of be ready to go. We'll see. We've got [Tim Belcher, a special assistant to baseball operations] there, and we'll kind of monitor things. We'll talk to Masty."
Masterson was not particularly sharp for Columbus, issuing six walks and ending with four strikeouts. He was charged with five runs, though three of them scored after he exited. The goal was to have him pitch deep into the game to test his right knee, and he accomplished that by working into the seventh.
Through 19 starts this season -- the last coming on July 7 -- Masterson went 4-6 with a 5.51 ERA, 93 strikeouts and 56 walks in 98 innings. As a first-time American League All-Star in 2013, he won 14 games, posted a 3.45 ERA and piled up 195 strikeouts in 193 innings.
Pitching coach Mickey Callaway said that Cleveland hopes that getting Masterson back to full strength and having Danny Salazar return to form can give the team a lift down the stretch.
"We'd like to get [Masterson] back in the rotation and pitching well," Callaway said. "If we can get him and Salazar going, we'd have a chance to make a run. They've both got to get going and pitch kind of like they did last year."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.