Av­er­age prospect, Klu­ber on way to Cy

Pawtucket Times - - SPORTS - By DAVE SHEININ The Washington Post

CLEVE­LAND - In May 2012, the Big Ten base­ball tour­na­ment at Huntington Park in Colum­bus, Ohio, forced the Class AAA Colum­bus Clip­pers to move Corey Klu­ber's reg­u­lar bullpen ses­sion to the in­door mound be­low the stands of their home sta­dium. And there, hid­den from the day­light, on an­other mun­dane day in an­other un­spec­tac­u­lar sea­son for an­other un­mem­o­rable right-handed mi­nor­league pitcher, Klu­ber, then 26, heard th­ese fate­ful words from his pitch­ing coach:

“We want you to try throw­ing a twoseamer.”

Ruben Niebla, the pitch­ing coach, showed Klu­ber his pre­ferred two-seam fast­ball grip, and, Niebla re­called this week, Klu­ber's first try with the new pitch swept through the strike zone. Do it again, Niebla told Klu­ber. “And he did it again.” Now try throw­ing it to the catcher's glove-side, Niebla told him. “And he dot­ted it on the cor­ner.”

Two days later In Syra­cuse, when Klu­ber made his next start, the new pitch was part of his reper­toire. By the end of Klu­ber's 62/3-in­ning per­for­mance in a 7-1 win, Niebla si­dled up to Clip­pers Man­ager Mike Sar­baugh and said, “We might have some­thing here. I think Corey is re­ally fig­ur­ing it out.”

By Au­gust 2012, the Cleve­land In­di­ans had called Klu­ber - with his ca­reer mi­nor-league record of 45-50 and ERA of 4.40 - up to the big leagues.

By mid­sea­son of 2013, he was an es­tab­lished part of the In­di­ans' ro­ta­tion.

By the end of 2014, he was the

“With the dif­fer­ent grip, aside from hav­ing more ac­tion on it, it helped me to com­mand it bet­ter to both sides of the plate. And ob­vi­ously, that's one of the keys to any­one's suc­cess.”

– In­di­ans pitcher Corey Klu­ber

Amer­i­can League Cy Young Award win­ner.

By the end of 2016, he was a folk hero in Cleve­land, af­ter start­ing on short rest three times dur­ing the In­di­ans' mem­o­rable run to the World Se­ries.

And by the time he takes the mound for his next start Sun­day, Klu­ber, 31, will have been a cen­tral fig­ure in the most dom­i­nant stretch of base­ball any team has com­piled in more than 100 years - with the In­di­ans en­ter­ing the week­end hav­ing won a ma­jor-league record 22 straight games. (The 1916 New York Giants won 26 straight, rec­og­nized in some cor­ners as the of­fi­cial record, but the Giants' streak in­cluded a tie.)

Though he was also the last In­di­ans pitcher to suf­fer a loss be­fore the launch of the streak - a 6-1 de­feat to Bos­ton on Aug. 23 - he has been vir­tu­ally un­touch­able dur­ing its course, go­ing 40 with a 1.41 ERA and 35 strike­outs against two walks in 32 in­nings, while lim­it­ing op­pos­ing hit­ters to a .170/.184/.304 slash line. Since com­ing off the dis­abled list June 1, he has gone 13-4 with a 1.77 ERA and may have caught, if not sur­passed, Bos­ton's Chris Sale in the AL Cy Young race.

“He's one of the best in the game,” Detroit Man­ager Brad Aus­mus said Tues­day night, af­ter Klu­ber dom­i­nated the Tigers in a shutout that in­cluded eight strike­outs and no walks. “He's got four pitches, and they all look the same com­ing out of his hand. He's very me­thod­i­cal. He's got good com­mand. He doesn't walk many peo­ple, and he's just got out­stand­ing stuff.”

That win over the Tigers pushed the In­di­ans' win­ning streak to 20, ty­ing the 2002 Oak­land A's for the AL record. But when the fi­nal out was in the first base­man's glove, and his joy­ous team­mates gath­ered in small groups to cel­e­brate, the man known as “Klubot” - for his stoic, ro­botic de­meanor - merely took a few steps to­ward his catcher, to shake his hand, and never once cracked the slight­est smile.

Klu­ber's work ethic and be­tween­starts prepa­ra­tion are le­gendary around the In­di­ans, to the point where the team has as­signed a group of its youngest prospects to fol­low him around for a few days to do noth­ing but ob­serve him. Those traits are ones he has pos­sessed as far back as any­one can re­mem­ber.

“He's not a very loud guy,” In­di­ans Man­ager Terry Fran­cona said. “But his lead­ing by ex­am­ple is im­pec­ca­ble.

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