Routine-driven Kluber a rock for Indians

October 25th, 2016

CLEVELAND -- Baseball will bask in pure revelry upon the christening of a World Series brimming with history tonight, and Indians starter , standing opposite lefty and the Cubs at Progressive Field, will be at the center of it all, balancing the storm with his calm.

See, this is business as usual for Kluber, even if the circumstances are anything but ordinary.

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"Obviously, you're in the World Series, and there's two teams left and all that kind of stuff," Kluber said on the eve of Game 1. "But at the same time, I think you're so wrapped up in the moment of trying to prepare and do everything you can to be ready that. For me, it's been all about getting prepared and being ready when it is time to throw that first pitch tomorrow.

"It will probably be something that will take more time to reflect on after the fact."

For now, at least, there's no time for reflecting when you're Kluber. So fully is Cleveland's ace devoted to his preparation, that he maintains it like clockwork -- an attribute that should serve him especially well when the Indians take to the field as hosts of a World Series game.

"Obviously, guys prepare, but it's the degree that he prepares that separates him for me," Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said. "I mean, he goes above and beyond. Literally, at any time of the day, I know exactly where he's going to be. It never changes. You can expect him to be exactly where he's going to be when he needs to be there. His routines and the way he accomplishes those really, really set him apart from everybody else. His time management is unbelievable."

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Neither shaken nor stirred, Kluber is steady in his ways, no matter the stage. He's sound and precise, in both routine and mechanics, and the results typically follow suit.

Kluber is no playoff vet like Lester, who has three World Series starts to his name, but he's quietly been one of the game's best pitchers three years running, earning the American League Cy Young Award in 2014, and his first postseason has brought about much of the same: He's 2-1 with a 0.98 ERA in three starts -- two of them coming in the AL Championship Series against the Blue Jays, one on short rest.

Game 1 preview: Kluber vs. Lester

Kluber handled the task with ease, even though he had never before pitched on fewer than four days of rest in his career. The Indians are convinced he could do it twice more in the World Series, with the potential for him to also start in Games 4 and 7, should that be the best option for their injury-ravaged rotation.

So often, the plot has strayed for these Indians this postseason; Kluber has not. When suffered a drone-related pinkie laceration ahead of the ALCS, the club's decision-makers -- already without injured starters and -- had to get creative with their pitching plans. Never, though, did they have to worry about Kluber.

There's this sigh of relief when it's his turn, it seems.

"He's very selfless," starter said. "He does whatever he can do to help this team win. He's the key piece for us. He's that glue that kind of holds this puzzle together. He's been the one constant all year long, so he deserves the praise that's given. He's about as intense as I've seen from one individual. He's always prepared. He's a stud."

The 30-year-old Kluber naturally downplays this, as a true team player does.

"I don't know if it's just the group of guys that we have that we're able to handle adversity well or we've also over the last couple years realized that's the kind of baseball we need to play to be successful," Kluber said. "Everybody kind of realizes that we each have our own job. It's not one superstar going out there and carrying the team."

Tribe sets Series rotation

Except Kluber comes close, and his teammates expect him to prove as much tonight -- "We expect a shutout from him every time," catcher said -- against an unfamiliar Cubs lineup.

Only and have had more than three at-bats in their career against Kluber, who operates with an impressive repertoire and spins the ball with so much force. Those two are a combined 1-for-20 with seven strikeouts.

"Their pitching over the last three or four years has really become something special," Zobrist said. "They've knocked out some great teams. Starting off with Kluber is not an easy task. I've faced him several times, and there's nothing easy about facing him."

"Corey's a warrior," Perez said. "He's our guy. I don't know what we'd do without him."