© Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Nearly two months after being sidelined with a strained back muscle, Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Mike Clevinger appears ready to take the biggest step in his return.

According to MLB.com’s Mandy Bell, Clevinger will pitch in a simulated game on Saturday and then will be cleared to begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Columbus if everything goes well.

Diagnosed with an upper back strain of the right Teres major muscle in early April, Clevinger’s absence in Cleveland’s rotation was felt for a long time. Cleveland’s rotation ranks 17th in the majors with a 4.43 ERA this season just a year after the club posted the third-best ERA (3.39) in MLB.

While Clevinger is eligible to be activated on June 7, he’ll likely need multiple rehab appearances in Triple-A to work back up to the point he can throw 90-plus pitches in a start.

When Clevinger returns to the mound in Cleveland, he’ll be welcomed back by a 12-inning scoreless streak from his first two starts this season. The 28-year-old is more than capable of carrying Cleveland’s rotation, which the team desperately needs to stay alive in the division.