Two of the guys that work the closest with Corey Kluber were a bundle of nerves as they waited for the announcement of the AL Cy Young Award. When Kluber was announced, the elation was evident.
Yan Gomes said last week that it would be an upset if Kluber didn’t win. In beating Seattle’s Felix Hernandez by 10 points, voters ended up agreeing with Gomes.
Of Kluber’s 34 starts, Gomes caught all but two of them and had a catcher ERA of 2.38.
"Once things like the Cy Young start being talked about guys put a little pressure on themselves and do not perform to the best way possible sometimes. Kluber took it to the next best level," Gomes said, "When (Justin) Masterson and (Asdrubal) Cabrera got traded he put it on himself. It wasn’t by being vocal but by just leading by example."
Gomes and Kluber’s rise to one of the top batteries in the American League have come at the same time. This past season marked the first full year they have spent in the Majors. The first time Gomes caught Kluber was a game in Triple-A Columbus in 2013. Both did not spend much time there.
"We feed off each other and the relationship continues to grow," Gomes said. "The best thing with him is he takes criticism and is open to what I am saying. He learns from outings real quick and keeps moving forward."
When asked about Gomes, Kluber said that his catcher deserves as much credit as anyone for helping him in winning the Cy Young.
Said Kluber of Gomes: "In my mind he’s as much a part of it as much as anyone. He has been a big part of me getting better the past couple years."
Last week pitching coach Mickey Callaway did the same thing that his boss, manager Terry Francona, did right after the season ended — put Kluber and Hernandez’s stats side by side without the names and compare who had the best season. In the end, Kluber had the better numbers.
While strikeouts and ERA always stand out when evaluating a Cy Young, there are other factors. When taking out factors that pitchers can’t control, Kluber had the edge over King Felix in fielding independent pitching along with strikeout to walk ratio.
When people started to think in early September that Kluber might be showing signs of fatigue, his final five starts were what Callaway considered his right-hander’s best of the season. Kluber won those starts and also had two games where he struck out 14.
"When we saw Kluber in the minor leagues he had a great body and unbelievable strength. He had the intangibles and the demeanor but the last thing he needed was fastball command," Callaway said.
Saturday at noon
Kluber finishes season strong vs. Rays (Sept. 26)
Sunday at 9 p.m.
Kluber vs. King Felix (July 30)
General manager Chris Antonetti watched the results from the Major League General Managers meetings in Phoenix and was happy to see that Kluber was honored despite not being a household name.
"One of the things that helps separate him is he always looked to improve. Constant quest and willingness to follow through on that and take feedback has contributed to him having the level of success he’s had," Antonetti said.
The thing Antonetti has to be happiest about the most is that Kluber is under team control until 2018. The past two Indians Cy Young winners — C.C. Sabathia in 2007 and Cliff Lee in 2008 — were traded the following season. The organization is expected to negotiate with Kluber during the offseason for an extension and sizable pay raise.
"The thing that is the most encouraging is he will lead his staff for the foreseeable future. You can’t have a better guy setting the standard with his preparation," Antonetti said. "To have that guy at the front of the staff is a great example throughout the organization."