GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Corey Kluber is the ace. He is the Indians' Opening Day starter. There is a lot of responsibility that comes with those titles, but he is quick to shrug that off. Kluber does not like labels, not for him, nor for anyone else in Cleveland's rotation.Kluber is
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Corey Kluber is the ace. He is the Indians' Opening Day starter. There is a lot of responsibility that comes with those titles, but he is quick to shrug that off. Kluber does not like labels, not for him, nor for anyone else in Cleveland's rotation.
Kluber is the leader of the staff, but he wants no ego among the Tribe's talented arms.
"We all do a good job of that right now," said Kluber, who is scheduled to take the ball in Cleveland's season opener on Monday against the Rangers.
Kluber pointed to last postseason as an example.
None of the starters cared that it was Trevor Bauer who took the ball in the American League Division Series opener against the Red Sox, and no one complained that Kluber was pushed to Game 2. None of the starters flinched when manager Terry Francona came with an early hook and turned things over to the bullpen.
And, when the team dealt with injuries to Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar down the stretch, the rest of the arms adapted an all-hands-on-deck mentality. As Cleveland heads into this season with hopes of returning to the World Series, that is what Kluber hopes to continue to see from the starting staff.
"I don't know if we ever really took time last year to be frustrated or feel sorry for ourselves," Kluber said. "I think it was always just kind of next man up. What do we need to do to, not make up for their loss, but what do each of us need to do now? If that's shoulder an extra load, so be it."
Kluber certainly led by example in that regard.
During the regular season, Kluber again pitched at a high level, winning 18 games, striking out 227 and logging 215 innings with a 3.14 ERA. For his work, the righty finished third in voting for the AL Cy Young Award. In the playoffs, when the team was short-handed, Kluber took the ball six times (a postseason record for an Indians pitcher) and logged 34 1/3 innings. That included three World Series starts.
"Special players do special things," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Kluber's performance in the playoffs. "We knew we were reaching a little bit. That's a lot to ask. We had guys going down, though, and I thought that was our best chance to win. I think he did, too. It's still a lot to ask. But, I appreciated it."
When the Indians approached Kluber about starting three games in the Fall Classic against the Cubs, he was surprised he was even asked. The right-hander just assumed that would be the case.
Cleveland fell short in Game 7, leaving Kluber and the Tribe eager to get 2017 started.
"It was definitely tough," Kluber said. "I guess now is when you can take a step back and look at it. Hopefully, we gained a lot of experience from it, and all the stuff you wish you didn't have to say. I think in the long run it will be a good experience for us to build on."
Earlier this spring, Salazar wore a red shirt that had Rotation of Domination printed across the front, with images of all five starters. He pointed to his chest and said, "We have the best rotation, not only in the American League, but in baseball."
Kluber prefers to look at it differently.
"To be completely honest with you," he said, "I couldn't care less if we're the best rotation in baseball. To me, all that matters is if we win games."
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 listen to his podcast.