Kluber left 'lasting impact' while in Cleveland

April 23rd, 2021

CLEVELAND -- There's always so much talk about the Indians' pitching factory and the organization's unbelievable ability to constantly churn out high-quality starters. But the players of Cleveland's past have played a significant role in the club's current success.

There's no doubt that the Indians' pitching development staff is top-notch, as every hurler who makes it to the big leagues seems to possess similar qualities, including tremendous poise and maturity. But just because a player gets the call to the Majors doesn't mean that development suddenly stops. And former Indians pitcher , who's back in town as a member of the Yankees, played a large role in developing a culture that helped younger hurlers continue to learn and grow.

"I don't think it was really something that I ever set out to do," Kluber said. "It was just kind of the way that I went about my business the way that I knew how, and it was kind of just a byproduct of that. But I guess, yeah, it's cool to hear it after the fact. Like I said, it was never a goal of mine or anything that I was focused on while I was playing here."

Kluber was part of a core group of starters who were obsessed with making each other better by always watching each other's bullpen sessions together every day. His success with the Indians speaks for itself, as he's the only two-time American League Cy Young Award winner in franchise history, along with being a five-time Opening Day starter for Cleveland and the ace of the staff, owning a 3.16 ERA in his nine seasons with the Indians.

"I think when you reflect back on legacies, you think about not only immediate contributions that a player made in his time here, but what lasting impact did he leave on the organization," Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. "And reflecting on Corey's time with us, he was an incredible contributor on the field and in the clubhouse. He set new standards for what dominance and extraordinary performance looked like on the field. But he was also willing to help set that example and lead the way for another group and help the guys around him develop."

And one of those young guys who he was able to impact was .

"I was very fortunate coming up in 2018 with the entire staff that was going here," Bieber said. "I was kind of like a fly on the wall for any conversation I could be there for, trying to pick up as much as I could. But Klubes, specifically, kind of the standard model for where you want to go and what you want to be is as a starting pitcher."

After trading their top starter in the 2019-20 offseason, the Indians had no drop off in talent or results when they handed the baton to their new ace, Bieber, who seamlessly stepped into Kluber's shoes by taking home the MLB Triple Crown and AL Cy Young Award in '20 and is already leading the Majors in strikeouts in '21.

"I think he continues to get better," Kluber said of Bieber. "When he first came up here, obviously he was pretty polished. Didn't run into too many speed bumps along the way. Got here quickly, but he's continued to improve and get better. So I wouldn't say I'm surprised. He's got a great work ethic, he's got a good head on his shoulders. He's got no reason why he shouldn't be able to continue improving."

Kluber is back at Progressive Field for the first time as an opponent, but because he toed the rubber on Wednesday for the Yankees (the day before the four-game series in Cleveland began), he will not face his former team. But that doesn't mean he hasn't been able to reflect on his nine-year stay in Northeast Ohio and meet up with some former staff members, coaches and manager Terry Francona at the ballpark.

"Obviously, everybody looks at on-field stuff, wins, stuff like that," Kluber said. "I think more just relationships in the clubhouse with teammates, people like that. You spend that amount of time somewhere, you become really close to a lot of the people. I value that more than statistics or accomplishments or anything like that."