The Cy Young award is presented to the best pitcher during the regular season and Indians ace Corey Kluber certainly fit the bill this year.
Kluber, who led the majors with a 2.25 ERA and despite missing a month was among the American League leaders in multiple categories, was named the AL’s top pitcher Wednesday, outdistancing the competition by a wide margin.
Kluber, 31, won the award in 2014 and is Cleveland’s first two-time Cy Young winner and just one of 19 big league pitchers to have accomplished the feat multiple times. Prior to Kluber, the last Indians pitchers to win the Cy Young were CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee in consecutive seasons from 2007-08.
“It’s exciting. It’s a huge honor to win this,” said Kluber, who received 28 of a possible 30 first-place votes, with the other two going to the runner-up, Boston’s Chris Sale. “It was an honor the first time. It’s an honor this time.
“More than anything, for me, this kind of shows what other people in the organization were able to do on my behalf. I got hurt and the training staff and medical people worked their butts off to getting me back and pitching like I was capable, instead of hurting the team like I was early.”
With help from the medical staff, Kluber recovered from a lower-back injury in May to produce at an elite level on a consistent basis over the final four months of the regular season. He was named the league’s pitcher of the month three times over the span, giving the Indians more than a chance to win each time he took the mound.
“In my mind that’s the No. 1 responsibility of a starting pitcher, to be reliable,” said Kluber, who went 18-4, leading the AL in WHIP (0.869), complete games (five) and shutouts (three), while striking out 265 batters over 203 2/3 innings. “Not just take the ball every five days, but going out there and giving the team the best chance to win.”
Kluber headlined a rotation that ranked fifth in the majors — third in the AL — with a 3.98 ERA. On that starting staff was right-hander Carlos Carrasco, who finished fourth in Cy Young voting behind the Yankees’ Luis Severino.
“I’m very proud of him,” Kluber said of Carrasco, who matched Cleveland’s ace with an AL-high 18 wins, while posting a 3.29 ERA over 32 starts. “I think that he would probably be the first to tell you he hasn’t had as smooth a transition as he thought. But I think he’s worked his tail off to overcome the obstacles and become one of the premier pitchers in baseball.”
Things didn’t end as expected for Kluber and the defending AL champion Indians, who entered the postseason as the odds-on favorite to win the franchise’s first World Series title since 1948, but were eliminated by the Yankees in the Division Series.
Kluber pitched poorly in two starts, including in the series-deciding Game 5 at Progressive Field, failing to last four innings in either outing. There was speculation that back issues resurfaced, but Kluber nor the Indians would confirm as much.
“It’s a 162-game regular season. I don’t think anyone’s 100 percent when you get to the postseason,” Kluber said. “It was unfortunate the way it ended, that we didn’t win that series. All we can do is look forward to next year and to try to have a better finish.
“Regardless of how (tonight’s Cy Young voting) went, 2017 is in the past. My full focus is on putting myself in the best position I can to help us try to win the World Series.”
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