Though the first half of the season was certainly trying for Indians right-hander Zach McAllister, who spent nearly two months either on the disabled list or in the Minors, he has begun to show signs that he's returning to his former self.
In addition to posting a 2.23 ERA across six starts at Triple-A Columbus, McAllister, 26, allowed only one run and struck out six over 5 1/3 innings against Detroit in his last outing with Cleveland. And though McAllister's numbers may not be all that overwhelming, his poise, pitch selection and fastball usage have drawn plenty of praise from his coaches.
"It's definitely very encouraging," pitching coach Mickey Callaway said. "He's pounding the zone, and he's gotten that confidence back that he kind of lacked there. He's keeping the ball down, for the most part. He's still getting some high fastballs and they're fouling them off, leading to more pitches. But he's been better."
McAllister will also have the benefit of not having pitched for a full week when the Tribe faces the Royals on Saturday. Over 16 career starts on six or more days of rest, he has a 3.09 ERA, with 71 strikeouts to 28 walks.
The Royals plan to counter with righty Jeremy Guthrie, a former Cleveland first-round Draft pick.
Guthrie has seen plenty of his old team since moving to the American League Central, though his two meetings with the Tribe in 2014 have been forgettable. The most recent one came earlier this month at Progressive Field, and it turned out to be one of his worst of the season: In four innings, he gave up six earned runs on 11 hits and two walks.
"They just hit everything," Guthrie said after that loss. "I kept the ball down, for the most part. [There were a lot] of singles -- they just kept hitting it where we weren't, and they just kept piling up."
Guthrie has been streaky for much of the season, but he has proven to be a slightly better second-half pitcher in recent years, compiling a 3.73 ERA after the All-Star break since 2012 (as opposed to a 4.83 ERA before the break).
Indians: Asdrubal could be available off bench
Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who was again out of the lineup on Friday due to lingering spasms in his lower back, is tentatively set to return to action on Sunday, said manager Terry Francona, who also noted that Cabrera could be used as a pinch-hitter on Saturday.
Cabrera has been sidelined since sustaining the injury while fielding a grounder during Monday's game in Minnesota. He has slowly ramped up his activity since Thursday, but should he not show enough progress to return on Sunday, Tuesday's series opener with Seattle would be a more likely date following Monday's off-day.
"If he's not quite ready, we have the [next] day off," Francona said prior to Friday's game. "If he plays Sunday, he's feeling good, because with Monday off, we wouldn't rush him back. We'll keep monitoring him."
Infielder Jose Ramirez, called up from Columbus earlier this week, and Mike Aviles have filled in at shortstop in Cabrera's absence.
Royals: Bullpen among "the best"
Though Kansas City's rotation has been impressive this season, the club's relief corps has also featured a number of admirable efforts.
That success was evident during Thursday night's 14-inning marathon, which saw four relievers combine to shut out the Tribe over innings 11 through 4. The group entered Friday with a collective 3.37 ERA on the season, sixth best in the AL.
Leading the way have been Wade Davis, who has a 1.03 ERA through 41 appearances, and Aaron Crow, who worked a scoreless ninth and earned his second save of the season in Friday night's win.
"I believe that we have the best bullpen in the league," Crow said. "From top to bottom, we've got seven guys out there that can get anybody out at any time."
• Tribe pitcher Corey Kluber took a no-decision on Thursday night despite allowing one unearned run, striking out 10 and issuing zero walks over nine innings. He is now just the fourth pitcher in the last 20 years to put up such a line and wind up with a no-decision.
• Kansas City's win over Cleveland on Thursday night was just the third time in franchise history that its pitching staff did not give up an extra-base hit over 14-plus innings.
Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.