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Kluber, Tribe feted at Cleveland Sports Awards

MLB.com @MLBastian

CLEVELAND -- The Indians did not achieve the moment they really wanted last year, but the team did make history on multiple fronts and was appropriately honored on Wednesday night.

During the 18th Greater Cleveland Sports Awards at the Renaissance Hotel, Indians ace Corey Kluber was named the 2017 Professional Athlete of the Year, and the Tribe's American League-record 22-game winning streak was recognized as the Best Moment in Cleveland Sports. Everyone in the room, including manager Terry Francona, would have preferred to be celebrating a World Series triumph.

CLEVELAND -- The Indians did not achieve the moment they really wanted last year, but the team did make history on multiple fronts and was appropriately honored on Wednesday night.

During the 18th Greater Cleveland Sports Awards at the Renaissance Hotel, Indians ace Corey Kluber was named the 2017 Professional Athlete of the Year, and the Tribe's American League-record 22-game winning streak was recognized as the Best Moment in Cleveland Sports. Everyone in the room, including manager Terry Francona, would have preferred to be celebrating a World Series triumph.

"After the sting of losing to the Yankees," Francona told the audience, "in 28 days, I guarantee you we're coming back with a vengeance."

Francona was alluding to the fact that the Indians -- who were ousted from the postseason by New York in the AL Division Series -- will have their pitchers and catchers reporting to Arizona on Feb. 14, marking the official start of Spring Training. This week, the manager and many of the team's players are in Cleveland for Tribe Fest, which takes place on Saturday at the Huntington Convention Center downtown.

At the awards banquet, Francona was joined by Tribe catcher Roberto Perez, who accepted Kluber's award on his behalf. Kluber -- the only pitcher in Indians history to win multiple AL Cy Young Awards -- shared some words of gratitude in a brief video.

"This is a huge honor for me, personally," Kluber said. "I'd like to thank Roberto for accepting this award on my behalf tonight. Without the leadership and guidance of our catchers -- both Roberto and Yan [Gomes] -- I wouldn't be in the position to receive this award. Also, I'd like to thank the rest of my teammates who supported me throughout the entire season. 2017 was a great year for us. It was very exciting.

"But, I think we're all looking forward to bigger and better things in 2018, and we can't wait to get started in a few weeks."

Tweet from @CLESports: Terry Francona poses with the #TwitterMirror prior to accepting the 2017 Best Moment in @CLESports Award! #RallyTogether #CLESportsAwards pic.twitter.com/u2mtom2JPI

Last season, Kluber went 18-4 with a Major League-low 2.25 ERA. In 203 2/3 innings, the right-hander piled up 265 strikeouts against 36 walks, and made his second straight All-Star team. Kluber then garnered 28 first-place among the 30 ballots cast by the Baseball Writers' Association of America for the AL Cy Young Award.

"Kluber is a special guy," Perez said. "As a catcher, I expect a lot of big things from Kluber. The way he prepares, he's so professional, and his work ethic. He deserves it."

Tweet from @MLBastian: Corey Kluber takes home the 2017 Professional Athlete of the Year award at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards. Roberto Perez accepted on Kluber���s behalf. pic.twitter.com/qDjf4xgtf6

This offseason, the Indians lost Carlos Santana, Bryan Shaw, Jay Bruce and Joe Smith in free agency, but the team is taking some comfort in the fact that the bulk of the pitching staff, including the entire Kluber-led rotation, remains intact. That is a main reason behind the team's confidence that it can not only contend for a third straight AL Central title, but position itself for another postseason run.

"It's a lot easier to appear smarter when you have good pitching," Francona said. "We've got to keep our guys strong and healthy, because they're the backbone of what we're trying to do. We don't take it or granted, but we appreciate it and enjoy it, and it's one of the reasons we think we can be good."

Tweet from @MLBastian: Indians manager Terry Francona, on the 22-game winning streak, the team���s offseason and more... pic.twitter.com/aSWzxRTjVJ

As for the Indians' historic winning streak, which eclipsed the 2002 A's previously AL record of 20 victories in a row, Francona said the magnitude of the accomplishment sunk in this offseason.

"I honestly didn't realize at the time what it meant to people," Francona said. "When I got back [home] this winter, more people were like, 'Wow, it was amazing. I stopped what I was doing when you guys got to like 15.' It was pretty cool to hear that, because when you're living it, you heard me every day, it was like, 'We're going to turn the page and move on.' And we'd do that pretty good. So, I don't know that I took the time to maybe enjoy it as much as I should have. When you look back on it, it's pretty special."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.

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