GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Around many camps, the announcement of which pitcher will take the ball on Opening Day is breaking news each spring. For the Indians, it is not something manager Terry Francona has felt the need to proclaim. It is just a given that ace Corey Kluber will be on the mound when the season begins.
On Friday, Francona confirmed what was already known: Kluber will indeed start against the Mariners on Opening Day on Thursday at Safeco Field. Francona did not even need to pull Kluber aside to alert him of the honor. It was mentioned casually during the right-hander's first meeting with the manager at the start of Spring Training.
"I just told him in the first one-on-one," Francona said. "I just said, 'Hey, get ready for Opening Day.' I think he kind of knows."
This was hardly a decision that warranted debate.
Kluber is coming off an incredible season in which he captured his second career American League Cy Young Award, making the righty the first pitcher in team history to win the honor twice. He did so by going 18-4 with a Major League-low 2.25 ERA in 29 starts, in which he piled up 265 strikeouts against 36 walks in 203 2/3 innings. It marked Kluber's fourth straight season with at least 200 strikeouts and 200 innings.
Kluber did all of that despite missing roughly a month due to a back issue in May. Following his return to the mound on June 1, the Tribe's ace went 15-2 with a 1.62 ERA in 23 starts. Over that span, Kluber struck out 224, walked 23 and held batters to a .175 average. He picked up AL Pitcher of the Month Awards in June, August and September.
The Indians have not announced their specific rotation order, but Kluber will be joined on the starting staff by Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer, Mike Clevinger and Josh Tomlin. It was a no-brainer for Francona to name Kluber his starter for Opening Day.
"You know what, though? Other guys could do it," Francona said. "I mean, shoot, in the playoffs last year we put Trevor first and Kluber second and Trevor pitched a heck of a game. Carrasco is one of the top handful of guys in the league. But, I think when you've got a guy who's won the Cy Young a couple times, and the way he works, it's an easy choice."
Kluber is scheduled to make his final Cactus League start on Saturday against the Rangers. Through four outings this spring, the leader of Cleveland's rotation has posted a 1.98 ERA with 19 strikeouts, three walks and eight hits allowed in 13 2/3 innings.
"He's done a good job of getting ready," Francona said. "It seems like every time out he gets a little bit sharper and a little bit deeper."