In his first start in a month, Corey Kluber's 10-strikeout effort to lead the Indians to an 8-0 victory over the A's on Thursday was good news not only to a club hoping to make another World Series run, but also to an important cause near and dear to the
In his first start in a month, Corey Kluber's 10-strikeout effort to lead the Indians to an 8-0 victory over the A's on Thursday was good news not only to a club hoping to make another World Series run, but also to an important cause near and dear to the right-hander: military veterans.
Kluber is part of the unique "Carhartt Starting Rotation" this season, along with Chris Sale (110) of the Red Sox, Jacob deGrom (92) of the Mets, Michael Fulmer (54) of the Tigers and Felix Hernandez (22) of the Mariners. For every strikeout they record, Carhartt, America's leading workwear brand, will donate $100 to Helmets to Hardhats, a national nonprofit program that helps military service members successfully transition back into civilian life by offering them the means to secure a quality career in the building and trade industry.
"I think anytime you can do something to support our military veterans, it's a great opportunity," Kluber said. "It is a good cause, trying to help them get back into the work industry. The way I look at it is, we're lucky enough to play a game every day, and we wouldn't have the ability to do that if it weren't for the sacrifices that they were willing to make for us. So to do something as simple as this is clearly the least I can do."
The 10 strikeouts by Kluber over six shutout innings against Oakland brought his season total to 51, and the quintet's total to 329. Their strikeouts are being tracked with the hashtag #Ks4Vets. Carhartt will donate an additional $25,000 to Helmets to Hardhats if the Carhartt Starting Rotation exceeds the strikeout totals of every other team's top five starting pitchers on the season.
Kluber was making his first start since May 2, when he allowed five runs on seven hits in three innings against the Tigers. He was pulled from that game after the third inning with back soreness, resulting in the right-hander landing on the 10-day disabled list the next day with a lower back strain.
All 10 of Kluber's strikeouts Thursday at Progressive Field were of the swinging variety. He even got a strike-'em out, throw-'em out double play in the sixth inning, when catcher Roberto Perez threw to Francisco Lindor to tag out Adam Rosales at second as Matt Joyce was being called out on an attempted check swing. Then Kluber whiffed Mark Canha to end the inning.
If the five Carhartt starters each match their season-best strikeout totals, then the total donation for individual strikeouts would be $112,800. Those previous bests were 274 by Sale in 2015, 269 by Kluber in 2014, 248 by Hernandez in 2014, 205 by deGrom in 2015 and 132 by Fulmer as a rookie last year. Hernandez has been out since April, and Kluber lost a full month.
The "rotation" concept is an expansion of what Carhartt did last year when it teamed up with Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner to donate $125,500 to Helmets to Hardhats. With that money, the organization helped more than 120 veterans receive training and secure a career in the construction trades. The MLB Players Association supported the expansion of the program to include the five star pitchers, and Carhartt expects more money to be donated this season.
"The men and women who serve in the armed forces and work in the construction trades epitomize the meaning of hard work," said Tony Ambroza, Carhartt's senior vice president of marketing. "That's why we're proud to partner with Helmets to Hardhats in expanding the Strikeouts for Vets program this year. We're confident that we've put together a group of pitchers that will outwork them all, and we look forward to writing a large check in support of Helmets to Hardhats at the end of the season."
"Last year's 'Strikeouts for Vets' campaign was a great success," said Darrell Roberts, executive director of Helmets to Hardhats. "Beyond the monetary donation, it increased awareness of building trades apprenticeships and construction career opportunities throughout the United States. We look forward to another year of partnering with Carhartt and the pitchers, whose efforts are going to enable us to change veterans' lives by assisting them in finding and beginning a new career."
Follow Carhartt and the "Strikeouts for Vets" campaign at facebook.com/carhartt and <href=http: a=""> track the campaign using #Ks4Vets.</href=http:>
Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com and a baseball writer since 1990. Indians beat reporter Jordan Bastian contributed to this story.