CLEVELAND (AP) - Unable to help his teammates in their playoff push, Justin Masterson might be able to pitch in October if the Indians get there.
Masterson threw a 33-pitch bullpen session on Friday, and the All-Star right-hander said the side injury that has sidelined him for the past few weeks has improved.
``It went great,'' said Masterson, who strained an oblique during a Sept. 2 start against Baltimore. ``I was really happy with it. I was able to mix in all my pitches. I felt real comfortable, no side-effects or anything like that, at least in the throwing aspect. We'll see how the body responds.''
Masterson will be re-evaluated on Saturday and will meet with Indians manager Terry Francona, general manager Chris Antonetti and Cleveland's medical staff before they decide the next step for him. It's possible he could pitch a simulated game Monday or Tuesday.
If all goes well, Masterson, who is 14-10 with a 3.52 ERA in 29 starts, could be in line to pitch in the final week of the regular season as the Indians try to secure one of the American League's two wild-card spots. They enter the weekend one-half game behind Texas and Tampa Bay.
Masterson, though, won't rush things. There is too much at stake.
``I want to be smart about coming back and be ready if we make the playoffs,'' Masterson said.
Francona said Masterson's workout was more than encouraging.
``He got after it,'' Francona said before the Indians played the Houston Astros. ``The good news is that he threw the ball really well. It was good.''
Masterson said it's been difficult and frustrating not to be able to pitch during the most crucial stretch of the season. But as much as he wants to contribute, he understands the wisest thing for him to do is get healthy.
``It's a balance, being I am feeling so good, atypical of this type of injury,'' Masterson said. ``To be so close, but not to totally kill ourselves trying to get back in the regular season, although I want to help out. We're not guaranteed the postseason.''
Masterson knows his role could change if he does come back. There is a chance he could be used as a reliever.
``I want to help out any way I can,'' he said. ``I don't want to start and go three innings. That's not going to help the team out. Those are the options I'm sure we'll be searching through and see what's best.''