Re-energized Kluber ready to turn the page

Cy Young winner says he's healthy, gets to work immediately

February 16th, 2018

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- The exact details behind what was ailing in the American League Division Series remain unknown. Four months later, the ace of the Indians' staff stood in front of his locker and offered the same brief summation that he uttered after Cleveland's final loss of last season.

"I was good enough to pitch," Kluber said on Friday morning. "I just didn't get the job done."

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For Kluber -- who has a no nonsense, no-excuses personality -- that is the only part of the story worth telling. He was named to the American League All-Star team, finished seventh in voting for the AL Most Valuable Player and won his second career Cy Young Award. What Kluber did not do was get fitted for a World Series ring, and that remains the goal as Spring Training opens this year.

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Kluber, 31, allowed himself a couple of weeks to rest at the outset of the winter, which came earlier than anyone inside Cleveland's clubhouse anticipated. Then, it was time to get back into the gym and begin focusing on the 2018 campaign, while the Astros were putting the final touches on their World Series championship. Kluber's time with his family, which includes two young daughters and a son, served as a welcomed distraction.

"As disappointing as the end of the season is," Kluber said, "I think that's obviously what you look forward to. You get to go home and spend time with the family, as opposed to just a couple of hours a day or being gone for 10 days at a time. That stuff is always nice for the offseason. It probably does help you to re-energize and be fresh and get ready to go once it's time for Spring Training."

Kluber took his place on the second pitching rubber on the row of practice mounds during Thursday's spring-opening workout for pitchers and catchers. A year ago, following an extra month's worth of innings during Cleveland's run to the World Series, the right-hander watched from the background to ease into the preseason schedule. This time around, Kluber worked through his regular throwing program with precision.

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There is nothing ailing Kluber now.

"He looks and seems to feel, from what he's saying, really good," Indians general manager Mike Chernoff said. "He had a really good offseason. He was able to refresh a little bit and looks really strong and good. So, we're hopeful that we can get through this season without that little bit [of fatigue] that he had, but have him continue to build on what he did in that entire second half."

Kluber tried to pitch through a back issue early on last season, but was forced to the disabled list with a 5.06 ERA in early May. The righty returned on June 1, slammed his foot on the accelerator and never looked back. Over his final 23 outings, Kluber went 15-2 with a 1.62 ERA in 166 1/3 innings, piling up 224 strikeouts against 23 walks with a .495 opponents' OPS in that span.

Overall, Kluber ended the season with a Major League-low 2.25 ERA and ran away with the AL Cy Young Award (he received 28 out of 30 possible first-place votes).

"It is incredible what he accomplished after coming back from being injured," Chernoff said. "You look, he built his Cy Young campaign on that essentially. The numbers are staggering."

Then came October.

In Game 2 of the ALDS against the Yankees, Kluber looked off from the start and went on to allow six runs on seven hits in 2 2/3 innings. Cleveland fought back in that game to pull off a 9-8 win in 13 innings. In Game 5, Kluber looked a bit better, but surrendered a pair of home runs to Didi Gregorius in another abbreviated outing (3 2/3 innings). Cleveland lost, 5-2, and saw its 2-0 lead in the series fade away.

"Look, he had two bad outings," Chernoff said. "I think there's a lot that people want to read into that. It's a long season, coming after a long season the previous year. And so, I'm sure there are levels of fatigue that every guy is dealing with, and it caught up to him a little bit. He had two bad outings."

Asked if too much was made of the postseason health woes, Kluber shrugged.

"It's not my job to worry about that," he said.

Kluber's only concern now is turning the page.

"I guess it sounds cliché to say it," Kluber said, "but I think every year we come in here thinking we have an opportunity to win the World Series. That's how much confidence we have with the group in here."