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TOR@CLE: Kluber pitches 6 2/3 frames and whiffs three

Question to the Royals' pitching staff: Anybody here got a clue about Cleveland?

Left-hander Bruce Chen should raise his hand because since joining the Royals in 2010, he's got a 7-1 record with a 3.43 ERA in 15 games against the Tribe. Yet, he's approaching Thursday's starting assignment with caution.

"They're a tough ballclub," Chen said. "They're fast, they know how to put the ball in play, they've got good hitters - [Nick] Swisher, [Michael] Bourn, [Jason] Kipnis and [Michael] Brantley, so I feel like we play them a lot and we're able to make a lot of adjustments on the go. That's how we do it."

Chen is well aware the Indians were the only American League Central opponent with a winning record against Kansas City last year.

"They're in our division and it's important for us to win every ballgame," Chen said. "They and the Tigers are the two teams are considered to be in the mix for the division lead, along with us."

Chen had problems earlier with a pulled glute.

"I don't think he has any issues with it," said manager Ned Yost. "I think it's feeling much better. He was bouncing up the stairs last night and said, 'See, that used to hurt. It doesn't hurt anymore.' "

Chen's mound opponent, Corey Kluber, gave up three runs in the first two innings in his last start against the Blue Jays, but a passed ball and some poor defense played a big role.

"There were some unfortunate things in the first inning that happened," Kluber said. "Aside from a few walks on my part that led to a couple runs also, I think for the most part, I did a good job of settling down and kind of holding them there until those last few hitters. I just didn't execute pitches very well."

As of Wednesday, the Indians and the A's were tied for most errors (20) in the AL.

"I think as a team, we've not played very good defense yet," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I think we will be better. I think we need to be better. We're that type of team where, when we play clean baseball, we generally give ourselves a chance to win. When we don't, when you give a team extra outs or even extra opportunities, it certainly makes it tougher."

Indians: Last man standing
The Indians have had their share off offensive issues, but production from the bottom of the lineup has not been much of a problem to date. Heading into Wednesday's game, Cleveland led the AL with a .397 on-base percentage and .890 OPS out of the ninth spot of the batting order.

Lonnie Chisenhall (eight games), Mike Aviles (six), David Murphy (three), Yan Gomes (two) and Elliot Johnson (two) have all had turns in the lineup's last slot.

"I wish one through nine we were leading the league," Francona said. "The idea, when you set a lineup up, is to not give a pitcher a break, which I think we have to be really good at, because at least in the past few years, we haven't had that 100-RBI guy. I'm not saying we won't this year, but the more you can attack every inning, is certainly beneficial."

Royals: Collins to join Omaha
Relief pitcher Tim Collins will join the Omaha Storm Chasers in New Orleans on Friday to begin his Minor League injury rehabilitation assignment. The left-hander is on the disabled list with a left flexor strain.

"He's going to need at least two [appearances] and we'll go from there," Yost said. "As soon as he's throwing the ball good again . … But we need to see that, we need to check his arm and make sure it's strong and durable and ready to go. We need to make sure he's commanding his fastball, his curveball and his changeup."

Collins got into only two games before being hurt.

"He's a big part of our 'pen, but he still has to get back to performing at the level he's accustomed to performing up here," Yost said.

Left-hander Francisley Bueno, out with a bruised finger on his pitching hand, threw a bullpen session on Tuesday and will throw again on Friday. He'll go out on rehab eventually.

Worth noting
• Indians with a good history against Chen include Brantley, 10-for-19 (.526); Swisher, 7-for-17 (.412) and Jason Giambi, 6-for-16 (.375), with four homers, eight RBIs.

• The Indians' weather-postponed game of April 15 at Detroit has been rescheduled as part of a day-night doubleheader on July 19 at Comerica Park.

• Thursday's game is one of just six on the Royals' schedule that won't be on some part of FOX Network TV this year. It'll be on Kansas City radio and MLB.TV only.

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