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First-base coach Alomar Jr. a candidate for D-backs manager

Former All-Star catcher joined Indians organization prior to 2010 season

First-base coach Alomar Jr. a candidate for D-backs manager

CLEVELAND -- Sandy Alomar Jr. has been viewed as an up-and-coming manager for several seasons now. On Wednesday, it was confirmed that the Indians first-base coach is among six candidates currently being targeted by the D-backs in their managerial search.

The details of when Alomar will interview with Arizona are still being worked out, and the D-backs' search will likely widen beyond the initial six possibilities. The D-backs also confirmed that Jay Bell, Andy Green, Phil Nevin, Jim Tracy and Turner Ward will be or have been interviewed for the managerial vacancy.

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In a season-end meeting with reporters on Monday, Indians manager Terry Francona noted that Cleveland plans on retaining its entire coaching staff for the 2015 season. Francona did hint, however, that some of his coaches might be up for jobs with other teams.

"To be respectful to the coaches," Francona said, "it wouldn't surprise us if some of our guys get interviewed in different areas. There are no plans to change our staff. I think being respectful to the process, let's let it play itself out, and if we need to think about some things, we would."

Alomar declined to comment on the situation with the D-backs.

The 48-year-old Alomar is no stranger to the interviewing process. Alomar was a finalist for the managerial opening with the Blue Jays after the 2010 season, and he also interviewed for the manager position with the Cubs and Red Sox following the '11 campaign.

Alomar joined the Indians' coaching staff prior to the 2010 season, serving as the first-base coach for his first two years on Cleveland's staff. He shifted to the role of bench coach under former Tribe manager Manny Acta in '12 and remained in that role during Francona's first season in '13. When Cleveland dismissed Acta in September of '12, Alomar served as the interim manager for six games.

This past season, Alomar returned to his former role as the first-base coach, allowing Francona's long-time coaching partner and friend, Brad Mills, to move take over as the bench coach. During his tenure on the Tribe's staff, Alomar has also served as Cleveland's big league catching instructor.

In parts of 20 seasons as a player, Alomar had stints with the Padres, Indians, White Sox, Rockies, Rangers, Dodgers and Mets. During his 11-year stay with Cleveland, the former catcher made six All-Star teams and was named the American League's Rookie of the Year and a Gold Glove Award winner in 1990. After retiring in 2007, he worked as a Major League catching instructor for the Mets for two years.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Kluber-led staff fuels Indians' hopes for 2015

Young rotation sets solid foundation for roster heading into offseason

Kluber-led staff fuels Indians' hopes for 2015

CLEVELAND -- The Indians might not need to worry about finding a front-line starter to lead their pitching staff this offseason. Cleveland discovered this year that it already had one in hand.

The breakout showing from right-hander Corey Kluber, combined with the strong second-half performance by Cleveland's young and controllable starting rotation as a group, has laid the groundwork for optimism for the 2015 season. If pitching is what paves the way to the postseason, the Indians appear to be positioned well for the near future.

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"We have young pitching that has done a really good job," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Saying that, you don't want to get too caught up in patting yourself on the back. Things happen over the course of years, especially with pitchers.

"So, I kind of fall back on, when you think you have enough pitching, get more. Whether that's develop it or [acquire it], you need to have pitching."

Pitching kept Tribe in hunt for postseason return | 2015 schedule

As the Indians begin mapping out their plans for next season, the top priority will likely be exploring ways to inject some offense into the team's inconsistent lineup. Nearly every position is accounted for in terms of contracts for next season, but general manager Chris Antonetti has shown in the past that he has a knack for creative thinking and surprising trades.

On the mound -- both in the rotation and bullpen -- the Indians appear to have a solid foundation from which to build.

Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer and T.J. House all project to be in the fold for 2015, though Cleveland could certainly stand to add more depth to that group. Closer Cody Allen, along with setup man Scott Atchison, Marc Rzepczynski and Bryan Shaw, all figure to be a part of Cleveland's plans next year, too.

"One takeaway [from this year] would be that our rotation is really, really good right now," Allen said. "We feel like we've got some guys that we can put out there every time through and they're going to give us a very good chance to win. That is exciting. But, every offseason is different. It could be busy. It might not be. We'll see."

For now, Cleveland's players are excited about the players that are already in the fold.

"With a young pitching staff, we've got something good going here," second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "As a fan base, you want a team that's going to put out a good product, you want a team that's going to win games. We won 92 last year. We finished with a winning record this year. So, we're not at the bottom.

"We're not in the cellar anymore. That's not something that you can hang your hat on right there, but we've got something good going here, something special brewing here, and we're all excited."

Here is a look at where Cleveland's roster stands heading into the offseason:

Arbitration-eligible: RHP Carlos Carrasco, 3B Lonnie Chisenhall, C/UTIL Chris Gimenez, LHP Marc Rzepczynski, RHP Bryan Shaw, RHP Josh Tomlin.

Potential free agents: INF Mike Aviles (club option worth $3.5 million for 2015), DH Jason Giambi.

Rotation: Given the second-half success of the starting staff, which was one of the best in baseball down the stretch, the club feels it has strong foundation for the next few years. What helps the Tribe beyond the collective performance of Kluber, Carrasco, Salazar, Bauer and House is that all five are under contractual control with only Carrasco entering his arbitration years. That is a lot of potential value when comparing production to price. That said, the Indians will surely explore starting pitching options this winter to shore up the depth of the staff.

Bullpen: By re-signing veteran Atchison through 2015 (with a team option for '16), Cleveland is in a position to return with virtually the same bullpen. The Indians set an AL record in 2014 for combined relief appearances, but that did not stop the group from being one of the most effective relief casts in the league. Allen has emerged as a reliable closer, while Atchison, Shaw and Rzepczynski provide solid setup options. The impressive seasons from lefties Kyle Crockett and Nick Hagadone also provide promise. The Indians have other young options in C.C. Lee and Austin Adams but will likely look to add more arms to the mix over the winter.

Catcher: The Indians have found a strong one-two catching duo in starter Yan Gomes and youngster Roberto Perez. Gomes has developed into one of the league's top offensive catchers, while also providing an above-average arm to go along with good game-calling and pitch-framing. Perez gives the Indians a good defensive option for the No. 2 role and showed that he can hold his own offensively in the big leagues in a part-time role. What Cleveland could use are better third-string options in case one or both of their Major Leaguers run into any issues.

First base: After the Indians experimented with using Carlos Santana as their third baseman and backup catcher, he found a home at first base by June. While at first, Santana shined defensively and regained a rhythm in the batter's box. There is no reason to think he will not be the full-time first baseman for 2015. That said, the Indians still have Nick Swisher and the two guaranteed years (worth $30 million) on his contract. Swisher could see time at first, but designated hitter seems like the more likely role for the veteran.

Second base: Coming off a strong All-Star season in '13, Kipnis struggled through an injury-hindered campaign. An oblique issue sidelined him for most of May and he dealt with a hamstring issue at the end of the season. The oblique injury might explain the drop-off in power production, making Kipnis a potential bounceback candidate for 2015. Kipnis is signed through at least 2019, so do not expect him to go anywere over the winter. When Kipnis is healthy, he has the potential to be an elite second baseman.

Shortstop: After trading Asdrubal Cabrera to the Nationals in July, the Indians took a long, hard look at youngster Jose Ramirez at short. The rookie displayed solid defense and often provided a spark out of the lineup's second spot. Ramirez will be in the mix for the starting job in 2015, but the Indians also have top prospect Francisco Lindor waiting in the wings. The Indians might also pick up Aviles' team option to keep him in the fold as a versatile utility option and the primary backup at short.

Third base: Chisenhall thrived in the first half this season, earning the trust of the Indians as the everyday third baseman by the second half. His offensive fade down the stretch, and inconsistent defense, might have Cleveland re-evaluating the hot corner for 2015. If the Indians do not plan to open next season with Chisenhall at third, it would be the most likely position to be upgraded via an external solution over the offseason. Another possibility for the Indians is returning to the kind of platoon situation that helped Chisenhall's offense early in the year.

Outfield: All-Star left fielder Michael Brantley (signed through 2017) and center fielder Michael Bourn (signed through 2016) are not going anywhere, barring an unexpected trade partner that is willing to take on the remainder of Bourn's contract. While Brantley emerged as an MVP candidate in 2014, Bourn had another inconsistent, injury-marred season. In right field, Cleveland has veteran David Murphy signed for one more year at a cost of $6 million. Right field would be a place for a potential offensive upgrade, but that would likely necessitate a trade to clear room. If they are all healthy and producing to their capabilities, Cleveland likes the outfield trio it has in the fold.

Designated hitter: Swisher was not the biggest fan of being a regular DH, but that might be the best option for him following the season-ending surgeries he had on both knees in August. The veteran switch-hitter never looked like himself offensively in 2014, but the health woes surely played a role. If he is healthy, first base would likely be his secondary position. There was talk of possibly moving Swisher back to right field, but the knee problems might remove that from the scenario. In a perfect world, the Indians would love to rotate players in and out of the DH role, avoiding a full-timer for that spot.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Kluber's September to remember nets monthly honor

Indians right-hander named AL Pitcher of the Month, a career first

Kluber's September to remember nets monthly honor

Corey Kluber finished the year with one more accolade in hopes of earning some more hardware in the near future.

The American League Cy Young Award candidate finished the month of September with a 5-1 record and 2.09 ERA, earning the AL Pitcher of the Month Award for the first time in his career.

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The Indians ace walked just seven batters on the month and led the Majors with 56 strikeouts in 43 innings over six starts. He also led the AL in starts, was third in innings pitched and 11th in ERA among pitchers with at least 24 1/3 innings of work.

Kluber went at least seven innings in five of his six starts and reached double-digit strikeouts in three of them. He recorded his third complete game of the season on Sept. 6 against the White Sox, then posted a career-best 14 strikeouts 10 days later against the Astros. He became the first Indians pitcher to notch 14 strikeouts in a game since Bartolo Colon on May 29, 1998.

With another 14-strikeout outing in his next start against the Twins, Kluber became the first Indians pitcher since Sam McDowell (twice) in 1968 to accomplish that feat.

Kluber's 18 wins this season were the most by an Indians pitcher since Cliff Lee went 22-3 during his 2008 AL Cy Young Award-winning campaign. Kluber is the fourth different AL pitcher over the last 20 years to reach the 18-win, 260-strikeout plateau with an ERA no higher than 2.50.

Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Pitching kept Tribe in hunt for postseason return

Kluber emerges as staff ace for promising rotation; injuries hamper offense's output

Pitching kept Tribe in hunt for postseason return

CLEVELAND -- The Indians made their goal known from the early days of Spring Training. Cleveland's players made it clear that complacency was not an option and that there was unfinished business to take care of this year.

The injuries, inconsistencies and trades that altered the shape of the roster over the season's six months could not be predicted. In that sense, what Cleveland accomplished -- falling just short of a second straight trip to the playoffs -- was impressive. Then again, coming close is not what the players inside the Tribe's clubhouse had in mind.

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"If you don't get into the postseason, it's disappointing no matter what," Indians closer Cody Allen said. "To not be playing in October is a disappointing thing."

Kluber-led staff fuels Indians' hopes | 2015 schedule

There are an assortment of reasons that tripped up the Tribe.

The Indians opened the season with sinkerballer Justin Masterson atop their rotation, but his struggles hindered the staff early on, and before the end of July, he was traded and in a Cardinals uniform. Cleveland's defense was perplexingly bad, putting far too much pressure on the pitchers and forcing the lineup to play from behind throughout the year.

Key offensive players such as Nick Swisher, Jason Kipnis and Michael Bourn dealt with a variety of injury issues that in turn affected their on-field performance. Those issues, along with other developments over the course of the year, led to a reliance on a handful of rookies, forcing Cleveland into the tough position of trying to contend while developing young players.

Through it all, the Indians stayed in the hunt for the postseason.

"It's gratifying," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I don't think it's any secret how I feel or how we feel about our team. One of our biggest goals is for us to feel like we're going in one direction. Sometimes it's the wrong direction, but we do it together and we work really hard to get there. You get reminders every day."

That Cleveland finished within earshot of October was largely a credit to the club's pitching staff.

Led by right-hander Corey Kluber, who turned in a campaign worthy of serious consideration for the American League Cy Young Award, the Indians' rotation evolved into a stalwart cast of arms by the second half. Down the stretch, Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer and T.J. House formed a strong five-man staff that consistently put Cleveland in position to win.

While the pitching soared in the second half, though, the offense faded.

"You want to click with all of it," Bourn said. "You want to have good pitching, timely hitting, hitting with runners in scoring position, stuff like that. ... It would be very tough, I think, to beat us in a [playoff] series, the way our pitching has been [in August and September]."

When it was all said and done, the Indians enjoyed breakout seasons from Kluber and outfielder Michael Brantley, enjoyed solid years from Carlos Santana, Yan Gomes and the bullpen as a whole. It all added up to a winning record, marking the first time since 2000-01 that Cleveland enjoyed consecutive winning seasons.

Of course, simply having a winning season was not the Tribe's goal.

"We're not looking for a participation award," Kipnis said. "We understand that wins are the most important thing at the end of the day. That's never been a question here in this clubhouse. We all know what needs to happen, but it's hard to not look around this locker room and at least be excited about this team, the future, what we have starting here.

"The players, the front office, we realize that we have the start and the making of a good team for a couple years or a long time."

Record: 85-77, third in the AL Central

Defining moment: Kluber hit his stride by July, piecing together a season that was already bound to go down as one of the best in several years by a Cleveland pitcher. The righty took things to another level on July 30 against the Mariners, who were dealt a three-hit shutout by Kluber on just 85 pitches. He threw just 16 balls in the entire nine-inning masterpiece. That stellar performance set the tone for the final two months, which were powered by pitching as Cleveland flirted with contention.

What went right: Kluber turned in one of the most dominant pitching seasons in franchise history, emerging as a surprising AL Cy Young Award candidate. In the process, Cleveland found a new leader for its staff for the foreseeable future. ... The rotation as a whole turned things up a few notches in the second half, giving the Indians one of the best starting staffs in the league. ... Carrasco moved out of the bullpen and back into the rotation in August and gave the Tribe a legitimate No. 2 arm down the stretch. ... Righty Josh Tomlin dealt with inconsistencies all year, but on June 28 in Seattle he spun a near-perfect game in one of the top highlights of Cleveland's season. ... Brantley made his first All-Star team, compiled one of the best all-around offensive seasons in team history and developed into an MVP candidate. ... Santana overcame a rough two-month start, finishing with 27 home runs and 113 walks in a solid season. The former catcher also found a full-time home at first base by the second half, ending a stint as a part-time third baseman and backup catcher. ... Gomes lived up to his contract extension, giving the Indians one of the top catchers in the game. ... Third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall stormed out of the gates in a first-half showing that culminated in a three-homer, five-hit, nine-RBI outburst against the Rangers on June 9. He became the first hitter in Major League history to hit those plateaus in just five plate appearances in a game. ... Allen emerged as a trustworthy closer for a solid bullpen that became the first in AL history to feature four pitchers (Scott Atchison, Marc Rzepczynski, Bryan Shaw and Allen) with at least 70 appearances. ... Besides Bauer and House, rookies such as shortstop Jose Ramirez, lefty Kyle Crockett, outfielder Tyler Holt and infielder Zach Walters played key roles at times for the club.

What went wrong: Swisher dealt with knee issues since the end of Spring Training, taking a drastic toll on his performance. On Aug. 20, Swisher underwent season-ending surgery on both knees. ... Kipnis, who was an All-Star in 2013, was struck with an oblique injury at the end of April and, following his return in late May, his offensive output lacked the same kind of power he has displayed in the past. ... Cleveland's defense led the AL in errors, costing the team's solid pitching staff key runs throughout the season. ... Righty John Axford, who was signed over the winter to serve as the closer, lost his job by May and was traded to Pittsburgh in August. ... Masterson and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera struggled in the first half and were traded (to St. Louis and Washington, respectively) before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. ... Bourn was hindered by a left hamstring issue throughout the season, leading to multiple trips to the disabled list. ... Veterans David Murphy, Ryan Raburn and Mike Aviles dealt with injuries at various points in the season, putting more pressure on younger players to help keep Cleveland afloat in the playoff race.

Biggest surprise: Carrasco. The big right-hander was given a spot in the Opening Day rotation mainly due to the fact that he was out of Minor League options. Then, following a rough showing in early April, Carrasco was sent to the bullpen. It was easy to think that Cleveland had given up on giving Carrasco chances to seize a starting role, but the club made a surprising decision to put him back in the rotation in August. Carrasco adopted a more aggressive approach, pounding the strike zone, overpowered hitters and gave the Indians one of their best stories of the season.

Hitter of the Year: Brantley. From start to finish, Brantley was the unquestioned leader for Cleveland's lineup. The left fielder hit .327 while piling up 20 homers, 23 stolen bases, 45 doubles and 200 hits in a special season for the Tribe. Brantley found a home in the third spot of the batting order and was worthy of being mentioned in the Most Valuable Player discussion by season's end. He also made the Indians look smart for signing him to a four-year contract worth $25 million during Spring Training.

Pitcher of the Year: Kluber. It's not even close. The right-hander won more games (18) than any other Indians pitcher in the previous five seasons and ended in the franchise's all-time top 10 for strikeouts (269) in a single campaign. Kluber not only developed into a clear-cut leader for Cleveland's rotation, but turned himself into a realistic contender for the Cy Young Award. Kluber pounds the strike zone, enticing early contact, but featured a cutter and slider that preyed on oppositing hitters, and provided perfect complements for his hard two-seam sinker.

Rookie of the Year: Take your pick between Bauer and House and you would have a sound argument for either pitcher as Cleveland's top rookie. Bauer logged more innings and shored up the middle of the rotation. House came up from Triple-A and gave the Indians a reliable fifth starter in the second half. A poll conducted among members of the Indians' coaching and player-development staffs was split between the pair. Ramirez and Crockett also played key roles.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Fan voting underway for Aaron Award nominee Brantley

Help decide this season's top offensive performer in each league

Fan voting underway for Aaron Award nominee Brantley

Voting is underway through Sunday exclusively at MLB.com to help decide the 16th annual winners of the Hank Aaron Award, given by "The Hammer" himself during the upcoming 110th World Series to the outstanding offensive performer in each league.

American League nominees include Nelson Cruz of Baltimore, David Ortiz of Boston, Jose Abreu of the Chicago White Sox, Michael Brantley of Cleveland, Victor Martinez of Detroit, Jose Altuve of Houston, Alex Gordon of Kansas City, Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels, Trevor Plouffe of Minnesota, Brett Gardner of the New York Yankees, Josh Donaldson of Oakland, Robinson Cano of Seattle, Evan Longoria of Tampa Bay, Adrian Beltre of Texas and Jose Bautista of Toronto.

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National League candidates include Paul Goldschmidt of Arizona, Justin Upton of Atlanta, Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs, Devin Mesoraco of Cincinnati, Justin Morneau of Colorado, Adrian Gonzalez of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Giancarlo Stanton of Miami, Jonathan Lucroy of Milwaukee, Daniel Murphy of the New York Mets, Andrew McCutchen of Pittsburgh, Matt Carpenter of St. Louis, Seth Smith of San Diego, Hunter Pence of San Francisco and Anthony Rendon of Washington.

Goldschmidt is going after his second straight Hank Aaron Award, having been the NL choice last year for the first time. Miguel Cabrera was the AL recipient each of the past two years, but V-Mart's nomination by Detroit means an end to that streak.

"As one of the game's most talented and respected players ever, it is appropriate that Major League Baseball recognizes the top offensive performers in each league with an award named in honor of Hank Aaron," Commissioner Bud Selig said. "Each of the nominees should be applauded for their outstanding seasons, which will make selecting just one winner in each league a difficult task for Hank, our Hall of Fame panel and our participating fans."

"I am honored to have my name on the award given by Major League Baseball to the top offensive performers in the game," Aaron said. "Each of the nominees is talented and deserving, which makes me grateful to have the assistance of my fellow Hall of Famers and the fans to help select the winners."

For the fifth consecutive year, a special panel of Hall of Fame players led by Aaron will join fans in voting for the award, which is officially sanctioned by MLB and has recognized the top offensive threat in each league since it was established in 1999.

The panel includes some of the greatest offensive players of all-time -- Roberto Alomar, Johnny Bench, Paul Molitor, Eddie Murray, Frank Thomas and Robin Yount. These Hall of Famers -- who combined for 16,956 hits, 8,844 RBIs and 2,109 home runs -- have been personally selected by Aaron to lend their expertise to select the best offensive performer in each league.

Do you go with a masher, like Stanton or Cruz? Or do you recognize a guy like Altuve, who led the Majors in batting average and led the AL in stolen bases? Home run kings often fare well in this process, but Chris Davis (53 homers) was trumped last year by Cabrera. And what about Trout, often referred to as the game's best player?

Past winners of the Hank Aaron Award include Cabrera and Goldschmidt (2013); Cabrera and Buster Posey (2012); Bautista and Matt Kemp (2011); Bautista and Joey Votto (2010); Derek Jeter and Albert Pujols (2009); Aramis Ramirez and Kevin Youkilis (2008); Rodriguez and Prince Fielder (2007); Jeter and Ryan Howard (2006); Ortiz and Andruw Jones (2005); Manny Ramirez and Barry Bonds (2004); Alex Rodriguez and Pujols (2003); Rodriguez and Bonds (2001-02); Carlos Delgado and Todd Helton (2000) and Manny Ramirez and Sammy Sosa (1999).

The award was introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record. At that time, it was the first major award introduced by MLB in more than 25 years.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Read and join other baseball fans on his MLB.com community blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Rotation's progress reason for Tribe optimism

Starters, led by Kluber, topped AL in ERA and strikeouts in second half

Rotation's progress reason for Tribe optimism

CLEVELAND -- Looking ahead to next season, a main source of optimism for the Indians is the performance of their starting rotation this past year and the collective contractual landscape of the group for the next several campaigns.

Cleveland boasted the best rotation in the American League in the second half and the club has the ability to retain the entire cast. During a season-end sitdown with reporters on Monday afternoon, Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said acquiring pitching remains a priority as the Tribe begins formulating its plans for the winter.

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"It was one of the highlights of our year," Antonetti said of the starting staff. "For them to be the best pitching staff in the second half, and know that they're all going to be here for the foreseeable future, that's really exciting and encouraging. But, we're not going to be complacent with it. We still need more pitching. We'll always be looking to add to both the rotation and the bullpen.

"So, as we go throughout the course of the offseason, we feel like we're entering it with a position of strength that may be unlike any position we've had in recent offseasons, with the quantity and quality of pitching that we have. But, we're still going to look to improve on it."

After the All-Star break, the Indians' rotation went a combined 25-19, leading the AL in ERA (2.95), strikeouts (433), strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.37) and fewest home runs allowed (26). During that time period, the group ranked second in the league in WHIP (1.14), opponents' OPS (.637) and third in innings pitched (417 2/3).

Right-hander Corey Kluber (18-9, 2.44 ERA, 269 strikeouts) led Cleveland's rotation for the entire season and was stellar in the second half, going 9-3 with a 1.73 ERA. Combined with Kluber, Carlos Carrasco (6-4, 1.72), T.J. House (4-1, 2.53), Danny Salazar (5-4, 3.50) and Trevor Bauer (2-4, 4.48) accounted for 60 of the Tribe's 68 second-half starts.

Bauer, Salazar and House do not project to hit their arbitration years until 2017, meaning they are not expected to be eligible for free agency until 2020. Carrasco will be eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter and is a potential free agent for 2018. Kluber will hit arbitration in 2016 and is currently in the fold through at least 2018.

Behind that five-man group, though, Cleveland's rotation depth is thin heading into 2015. At the moment, right-handers Josh Tomlin and Zach McAllister are the only clear alternatives for the Major League starting staff.

Antonetti was asked if the Indians might approach Kluber about a contract extension this winter. Prior to this season, Cleveland took that approach with second baseman Jason Kipnis, outfielder Michael Brantley and catcher Yan Gomes, giving them deals that assumed arbitration years and had the potential to cover multiple free-agent seasons.

"That's probably a conversation for a little bit later in the winter," Antonetti said. "We're right now just wrapping up this year. He's a guy, I can tell you, we value incredibly high and are thankful that he's going to be here for a while. That's a good starting point for us."

Quote to note
"He was, in our view, the best pitcher in the American League this year. His consistency, and his consistent dominance, was a big part of the reason we were able to win as many games as we did. It's not an accident why that happened. It's because of the work he's put in. He put together an incredible season and the thing that excites us most is this is not a guy who's going to be complacent with what transpired this year. He's going to go out and try to do it even better next year, which is going to be really hard for him to do. But that's what he's focused on."
-- Antonetti, on AL Cy Young candidate Corey Kluber

Smoke signals
• The Indians hold a $3.5 milion team option (or a $250,000 buyout) on versatile utility man Mike Aviles for the 2015 season. Antonetti said the team has not yet decided whether the option will be exercised. The 33-year-old Aviles, who was acquired from the Blue Jays via trade two offseason ago, hit .247 with five homers and 39 RBIs in 113 games this year, while playing multiple infield and outfield positions.

"We don't want to short-change the process," Antonetti said. "We all appreciate Mike's contribution to our team: what he means on the field, his versatility, the way he's filled in really almost anywhere on the diamond when we've had injuries, the presence he has in our clubhouse, and the way he helps kind of unify our group and create the energy and atmosphere in the clubhouse every day. We don't take those things for granted."

• Manager Terry Francona noted that he hopes to retain his entire coaching staff for 2015, but hinted that some of the coaches might be in line to interview for jobs elsewhere. The group includes bench coach Brad Mills, pitching coach Mickey Callaway, bullpen coach Kevin Cash, hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo, assistant hitting coach Matt Quatraro, first-base coach Sandy Alomar Jr. and third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh.

"To be respectful to the coaches," Francona said, "it wouldn't surprise us if some of our guys get interviewed in different areas. There are no plans to change our staff. I think being respectful to the process, let's let it play itself out and, if we need to think about some things, we would."

• Antonetti and Francona spent the past week meeting with players individually and with the coaching staff to discuss the offseason. Later this week, the GM and manager will fly to Arizona to meet with members of the scouting and player development staffs to begin formulating more specific tasks and goals for the winter months.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Veteran Giambi unsure of future

Veteran Giambi unsure of future

CLEVELAND -- The time will come for veteran Jason Giambi to sit down and ponder his future in the game. Standing at his locker inside the Indians' clubhouse on Sunday morning, Giambi said that time had not yet arrived for him.

Following Sunday's game against the Rays, Giambi will have completed his 20th season in the Major Leagues. The 43-year-old designated hitter has yet to say one way or another if he will try to return as a player next year. For the moment, he said he has only one goal on his mind.

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"I'll go home and enjoy my family," Giambi said. "That's the biggest thing I've got on my plate right now -- just go home and enjoy every minute of that. And then I'll worry about what the universe has got in store for me next."

Indians manager Terry Francona helped convince Giambi to sign with Cleveland prior to last season to provide the young team with a veteran leader in the clubhouse and a potent batter off the bench. Providing leadership has been Giambi's primary focus over his two seasons with the Tribe, and he was thrilled to have that chance.

"The biggest thing that I came here to do was help the young kids," Giambi said. "I never lost sight of that."

Francona said he hopes Giambi's influence rubbed off on his teammates and the staff.

"I hope on myself, too," Francona said. "This guy brings so much. He's so special to be around. You savor it and take what you can."

In 26 games this season, Giambi hit just .133 (8-for-60) with two homers and five RBIs between multiple stints on the disabled list. Last year, Giambi hit only .183 in 71 games, but he contributed nine homers, including a blast that will live on in Indians folklore. On Sept. 24 last season, Giambi launched a pinch-hit, walk-off homer against the White Sox to help Cleveland's push to the playoffs.

Over his 20 seasons in the Majors -- spent with the A's, Yankees, Rockies and Indians -- Giambi has posted a .277/.399/.516 slash line with 440 home runs. He is one of only 24 players in baseball history to have at least 400 homers, 400 doubles, 1,300 walks and 1,400 RBIs in a career. He took home the American League Most Valuable Player Award in 2000 with Oakland.

Giambi just is not sure what will come next.

"I've been playing this game since I was five years old," Giambi said. "That's your whole life. If you look at it, it's 40 years of doing the same thing. It's been unbelievable. It's been fun. But, I still haven't made a decision about what I'm going to do yet. Who knows?

"Maybe somebody's looking for a broken-down 44-year-old by then to kind of take a few extra hacks. We'll see. I don't know. I'm not worried about that."

Quote to note
"It's a remarkable feeling. I want to thank the fans for that. That's something that's not thrown around. It was a special moment and I appreciate that."
-- Outfielder Michael Brantley, on fans chanting "M-V-P!" during Saturday's game

Smoke signals
Corey Kluber is one of four pitchers (six times) in the past 20 seasons (1995-2014) to end a year with at least 18 wins and 260 strikeouts with an ERA of 2.50 or better. Randy Johnson (1995, '97), Roger Clemens ('97) and Pedro Martinez (1999-2000) also accomplished the feat. Of those previous five instances, four resulted in a Cy Young Award for the pitcher.

• For the final lineup of the regular season, Francona starteed six rookies (starter T.J. House, shortstop Jose Ramirez, first baseman Jesus Aguilar, second baseman Zach Walters, catcher Roberto Perez and center fielder Tyler Holt). In all, Cleveland has used 11 rookies this year.

• The Indians will end this season with the most combined relief appearances by an AL team in baseball history. Entering Sunday's season finale, their 571 relief games ranked third all-time in the Majors behind the '12 Rockies (575) and '07 Nationals (588).

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Youngsters help Tribe cruise in season finale

House pitches five strong innings; Walters drives in two

Youngsters help Tribe cruise in season finale

CLEVELAND -- Looking back is not something that Indians manager Terry Francona enjoys doing. Over the final two days of this season, with his team playing for pride rather than a trip to the postseason, Francona still did what he could to sidestep questions about the past six months.

Francona wants to know what the Indians are going to do next and plans on shifting his focus to identifying ways to improve the roster over the winter. For all the positives that existed within the 2014 campaign -- and there were plenty -- Sunday's 7-2 win over the Rays only reinforced the biggest letdown: Cleveland is not returning to the playoffs.

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"We're trying not to skip a beat," Francona said. "It's 'OK, how are we going to get better moving forward?' That's where it helps. It takes away some of the disappointment, because you're just right into next.'"

This is not to say there was not disappointment in Cleveland's clubhouse on Sunday.

As center fielder Michael Bourn spoke with reporters, he could not help but notice Detroit's American League Central-clinching celebration being aired on one of the televisions in the room. Bourn and his Cleveland teammates would much rather have the sting of champagne in the eyes than the feeling that comes with being eliminated and getting an early start on the offseason.

"You never want to be going home," Bourn said, "especially when you see something like that going on on TV. They're celebrating another division title. We played with it until the end. We played meaningful games all the way until the last two. We gave it all we had. We fought. We just came up short."

Simply finishing with a winning record was not the goal for the Indians, who captured the AL's top Wild Card spot a year ago. The only similarity between the ending of the past two seasons is the fact that Tampa Bay was in the visitors' dugout for the final game at Progressive Field. At least in '13 it was for a raucous Wild Card Game that energized a city long-starved for a championship.

The Indians wanted desperately to build on that success this year.

"We came in here with high expectations," said outfielder David Murphy, who signed with Cleveland last offseason. "I joined a team that went to the playoffs last year and we had every expectation of doing that again and not even getting to a Wild Card Game, hopefully winning the division. Obviously, things didn't work out that way."

Indians fans will hopefully take some solace in the team's promising core.

During the '14 campaign, right-hander Corey Kluber turned into one of the elite pitchers in the game and is a contender for the AL Cy Young Award. Left fielder Michael Brantley made his first All-Star team and turned in a season worthy of votes for the league's Most Valuable Player Award. Catcher Yan Gomes, starter Carlos Carrasco and closer Cody Allen, among others, had strong years as well.

For the first time since the 2000-01 seasons, Cleveland enjoyed consecutive years with a winning record. The club won 92 games a year ago and ended with 85 this season. It was not enough, but it was impressive given the roster turnover that took place throughout the summer due to trades, injuries and subpar individual showings.

"We did about what we could do, when you look back, all things considered," Francona said. "I think we said since the first day, 'You play the game the way you can, and then you look up at the end and you take where you're at.' That's probaby about where we deserve to be."

While the Indians dealt with those issues, a kind of youth movement transpired on the field. The lack of big league experience infused into the regular lineup did not stop Cleveland from contending through its 160th game of the year. For the final game of the regular season, the Tribe put many of its young players on display.

Lefty T.J. House, who came up from Triple-A and solidified the back of the rotation, turned in five solid innings and limited the Rays to one run. House struck out two and scattered five hits, bowing out after only 49 pitches to let some relievers get some final work. Following House out of the bullpen were rookies C.C. Lee and Kyle Crockett, who grew into more prominent roles during the summer.

Rookie shortstop Jose Ramirez, who took over at the position after veteran Asdrubal Cabrera was dealt to Washington in July, had three hits and one RBI. Second baseman Zach Walters (acquired for Cabrera) belted a home run and added an RBI double. Center fielder Tyler Holt and catcher Roberto Perez -- two more of the 11 rooks used by the Indians this year -- had three hits combined.

Murphy (solo home run off Rays righty Alex Cobb in the second inning) and Carlos Santana (two-run single in a three-run seventh) also did their part in helping Cleveland cruise to an easy win in its season finale.

"You definitely want to make sure you have more games left at the end of the year," House said. "I think we're going to take this and kind of springboard ourselves into next year with a little chip on our shoulder to come out and play a little stronger. Hopefully at this time next year, the last game of the regular season, we'll be talking about the postseason."

As for this year's postseason, Francona is not sure he will watch a full game.

"I always get mixed emotions," Francona said. "I'm sure I'll probably have it on. There's always a certain amount of -- I know it doesn't sound good -- but almost jealousy, because you want to be there so bad."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Brantley's 200th hit caps history-making season

Brantley's 200th hit caps history-making season

CLEVELAND -- Michael Brantley elevated his offensive game to new heights this season, emerging as the Indians' top overall player. With a one-out single in the fourth inning on Saturday, the outfielder also entered uncharted statistical waters in terms of team history.

Brantley's hit off Tampa Bay right-hander Alex Colome marked the 200th hit of the season for the All-Star left fielder. With that hit, Brantley became the first batter in Cleveland history to have at least 20 stolen bases, 20 home runs, 40 doubles and 200 hits in a single campaign.

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When Brantley reached first base after the milestone hit, he put both hands on his mouth and blew a kiss to the sky. It was an emotional moment for the left fielder.

"It was just a little gesture to my grandmother," Brantley said. "I know she's up there watching me. I lost her a year-and-a-half back to some cancer and let her know she's still a part of me, and that I'm the man I am today because of her."

For manager Terry Francona, the statistics are not required in order for him to boast about Brantley's special season.

"I actually don't need the stat line," Francona said. "I know that backs up everything, but he has had a remarkable year in every way, shape and form. To play the amount of games he played. He hit third all year. He made an All-Star team. He was one of the best teammates you'll ever see. He cares so much. He knows his responsibilities to our team.

"You're seeing a kid grow up, and he's always been a mature kid. You're seeing a kid grow up as a baseball player right in front of our eyes and go from being a good player to one of the better players in the game. That's really exciting."

Brantley is the first Indians hitter to reach at least 200 hits in one season since 1996, when Tribe great Kenny Lofton had 210 hits. Overall, Brantley became the 18th batter in Cleveland history to have at least 200 hits -- a mark that has been reached 28 times overall.

Brantley is the seventh hitter in team history to collect at least 20 stolen bases and 200 hits in a season. The others on that list include Lofton (1996), Joe Carter (1986), Charlie Jamieson (1924), Tris Speaker (1916), Shoeless Joe Jackson (1911-12) and Nap Lajoie (1904, 1906 and 1910). Among that group, only Carter also had at least 20 home runs.

Brantley, Lofton (1996), Carlos Baerga (1992-93), Carter (1986) and Al Rosen (1953) are the only Indians batters to enjoy a 200-hit season.

"It's been one of the best all-around seasons I've ever seen as a teammate," second baseman Jason Kipnis said. "Sure, I've seen other guys. You'll have the [Mike] Trouts, the Victor Martinez's, those guys will have their incredible years. But, as a teammate, playing alongside someone, it's been one of the better seasons I've ever seen."

In terms of American League history, Brantley joins Jacoby Ellsbury (2011), Alfonso Soriano (2002) and Nomar Garciaparra (1997) as the only players to have a season with at least 20 steals, 20 homers, 40 doubles and 200 hits. Brantley is on the cusp of joining Ellsbury as the only hitters in that select group to also have at least 90 RBIs with at least a .320 batting average.

With Saturday's showing, Brantley is now hitting .327 with 20 home runs, 23 steals, 45 doubles, 94 runs and 97 RBIs through 156 games for Cleveland. The All-Star also has nearly as many walks (52) as strikeouts (56).

In Major League history, only Ellsbury (2011), Larry Walker (1997), Ellis Burks (1996), Chuck Klein (1932) and Babe Herman (1929) have ended a single season with at least a .320 average, along with at least 20 homers, 20 steals, 40 doubles, 90 RBIs and 200 hits. Brantley is poised to become the sixth player in history to achieve that rare feat.

Brantley has not allowed such historic elements to sink in, yet.

"It's going to mean a lot on Monday," Brantley said, "when I sit back and reflect on kind of what went on. I'll digest it all."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Shaw sets Indians mark with 80th appearance

Shaw sets Indians mark with 80th appearance

CLEVELAND -- Bryan Shaw emerged from the center-field bullpen door, jogged to the mound at Progressive Field and entered the Indians' record book.

With his one-batter outing in the ninth inning of Saturday's 2-0 loss to the Rays, Shaw set Cleveland's single-season franchise record with his 80th appearance of the year. Indians manager Terry Francona knew that reaching that milestone was important for the setup man.

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"I know it was," Francona said. "We're at the point in the season where we don't want to do too much, but as important as it was to him, that made it important to us. Because he's gone out there so much this year and done such a great job, to let him face a hitter, I thought it was worth it."

Shaw induced an inning-ending groundout off the bat of Ryan Hanigan.

Shaw, who surpassed Bobby Howry's 2005 Indians record of 79 appearances in one season, has posted a 2.59 ERA in his 80 games (76 1/3 innings) this year. Over the past two seasons combined, the 26-year-old right-hander ranks second among American League relievers in games (150) and innings pitched (151 1/3).

Reaching the milestone was a proud moment for Shaw, who is the 31st pitcher in AL history to record at least 80 games in one season. The feat has been accomplished 35 times overall.

"For me, it's just a fun stat to have," Shaw said. "To me, it more says that I pitched well enough to be able to do that and they've trusted me enough to put me in that many games to have a chance to break that record. To me, it's not more about breaking the record. It's about them trusting me."

Francona said there is no question that has been achieved.

"There's a huge trust," Francona said. "He's been durable and he loves to pitch. The best way to kind of make him aggravated is to tell him he's down that night. He hates it. I have that little [reliever usage] card that I use. It actually went to a point there for a while, because he was pitching a lot, I put 'down.' He scratched it out and put, 'Awesome.'"

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Gomes had prime seating for Kluber's Cy-caliber season

Gomes had prime seating for Kluber's Cy-caliber season

CLEVELAND -- Yan Gomes had the best possible view of Corey Kluber's incredible season for the Indians. From behind the plate, the young catcher helped guide the pitcher through brilliant outings and got to experience a firsthand look at an emerging ace.

"He made it pretty easy," Gomes said. "You see the hard work he puts in and how focused he is coming into a start. We have a pretty good game plan going in every day and it just shows how good of a communication level we had this year.

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"What we took a lot of pride in this year was the adjustments we made, quick adjustments, throughout the games."

Kluber is quick to praise Gomes for those in-game tweaks. One example came against the Rays on Friday night, when Kluber spun eight scoreless innings, struck out 11 and improved to 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA this season in the process. In the middle of the game, Gomes noted that Tampa Bay was becoming more aggressive early in the count, leading to an adjustment on the pitcher's end.

"I think Yan's by far the best catcher in the league," Kluber said. "I don't think you can really put an amount on how much he helps us out as a staff, especially for it being his first full year back there. He's been back there almost every day. I think he does a lot more than he gets credit for back there."

Gomes rolls his eyes when told of such compliments.

"If people try to give any type of credit to me," Gomes said with a pause. "I just think it's all him and all his work he put into it."

Kluber finished the season with 269 strikeouts and is a clear-cut candidate for the American League Cy Young Award. With Gomes behind the plate, the right-hander turned in a 2.38 ERA in 219 1/3 of his 235 2/3 innings.

"Gomer really needs to get a pat on the back for what he's gone through with Klubes," Indians manager Terry Francona said.

Gomes added that he is hoping to see all the hard work result in the Cy Young Award for Kluber.

"Honestly, I think he's got the best shot," Gomes said. "[What he has done] is pretty unreal. It's a huge honor and I don't know if that's something catchers put in their book, but it'd definitely be something exciting."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Carrasco strong, Brantley gets milestone in loss

Righty cements case for 2015 staff, fanning 10 Rays

Carrasco strong, Brantley gets milestone in loss

CLEVELAND -- The Indians held out faith that Carlos Carrasco's right arm could turn him into a rotation cornerstone. For the final two months of this season, the pitcher finally seized the opportunity in overpowering fashion.

On Saturday night, the Indians took the field for the first time this year without October baseball as a possibility and dropped a 2-0 decision to the Rays. A silver lining came in the form of Carrasco, who turned in another strong performance to end his season, giving the Tribe reason to be optimistic about the front end of its starting staff for the 2015.

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"I would say it flew past encouraging," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Carrasco's finish this season. "He's got so much to be excited about going into the offseason and into next year."

Corey Kluber and Carrasco gave Cleveland one of the American League's top one-two punches in this season's second half, and both are under contract for multiple years going forward. Combined with young starters such as Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer and T.J. House, the Indians are positioned to have a solid rotation foundation for next year.

It took Carrasco until August to regain the trust required to be inserted back into the starting staff.

Following a rough April, Carrasco was pulled out of the Opening Day rotation and sent to the bullpen for three-plus months. It was not until Aug. 10, when the rotation was going through some issues, that the club opted to give the hard-throwing righty another shot. Carrasco returned to that role with a more aggressive approach and altered mindset, and hitters paid the price down the stretch.

Francona noted that pitching coach Mickey Callaway and bullpen coach Kevin Cash convinced the manager to put Carrasco back in the rotation.

"They really deserve a lot of credit," Francona said. "I was so comfortable with where he was in the bullpen and thought that he was really going to grow, as he was. For them to push that hard, that shows how much faith."

Carrasco was grateful for the support.

"Those two guys trusted me," Carrasco said. "And now I trust myself, too."

In his final outing of the season, Carrasco was charged with two runs (one earned) in 7 2/3 innings against the Rays. A fourth-inning throwing error by third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall paved the way for the first run and an infield, RBI single from James Loney in the eighth led to the second.

What Carrasco could not control was the fact that Cleveland's offense could not get anything going against Tampa Bay's pitching staff. Righty Alex Colome logged 6 1/3 shutout innings and the bullpen took care of the rest, hanging Carrasco with a hard-luck loss.

The lone positive from the lineup on this night was a fourth-inning single from Michael Brantley, who chopped a pitch from Colome up the middle for his 200th hit of the season. Brantley became the first Cleveland batter to have at least 200 hits in a season since 1996 (Kenny Lofton, 210) and he is the first Indians batter in history to have at least 20 steals, 20 homers, 40 doubles and 200 hits in one year.

"It's going to mean a lot on Monday," Brantley said of the milestone, "when I sit back and reflect on kind of what went on. I'll digest it all."

Francona was thrilled to see Brantley reach the 200-hit plateau.

"You could see the way our dugout reacted, how pleased everybody was," Francona said. "It's a pretty big milestone. Guys show up every day, and to get that number -- it wouldn't have mattered one bit in our opinion [of him] -- but it's very nice that he's able to get the recognition for all that work.

"What's probably the topper is, as good of a player as he is, I don't think it touches the kid he is. That makes it even more special."

With the loss, Carrasco dropped to 8-7 on the season, but he the right-hander lowered his ERA to 2.55 on the year. Carrasco struck out 10 and walked three in his 10th start since rejoining the rotation in August. During that 10-start span, Carrasco turned in a 1.30 ERA with 78 strikeouts, 11 walks, a 0.81 WHIP and a .179 opponents' average across 69 innings.

"I was still hungry to pitch in the rotation," Carrasco said. "Now I just believe in myself and my stuff and everything."

Carrasco also believes Cleveland's rotation can be special come 2015.

"I think we're going to be great," he said. "We showed this year we can do this."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Kluber makes closing statement for Cy with 11-K gem

Ramirez's homer holds up for win, but postseason hopes end

Kluber makes closing statement for Cy with 11-K gem

CLEVELAND -- Corey Kluber did his part in trying to save the Indians' season, and the pitcher made quite a statement in the process.

On Friday night, Kluber put the finishing touches on a brilliant campaign in a 1-0 victory over the Rays at Progressive Field, giving voters one more pristine pitching line to consider while filling out their ballot for the American League Cy Young Award. Out of Kluber's control was Cleveland's fate in the AL postseason picture.

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"It'd be a great accomplishment," Kluber said of potentially capturing the award for his work this year. "But, the most important thing right now is that the team won. Hopefully, we're still in it."

While Kluber spoke after the game, Oakland's game against the Rangers on Friday was still in progress. The only way Cleveland would still have life in the AL Wild Card race was if the A's lost in Texas. After Kluber's gem kept the dream alive, Oakland picked up a win and officially eliminated the Tribe from postseason contention.

As the Indians now begin planning for 2015, the club can consider itself fortunate to have discovered a frontline starter such as Kluber. In his latest performance, the right-hander spun eight scoreless innings, piled up 11 strikeouts and moved into a tie for the AL lead with his 18th victory. Kluber's 269 strikeouts now lead the Majors.

It was a superb finish to one of the greatest seasons by a pitcher in a Cleveland uniform.

"He looked like he was on a mission," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Saying that, he's looked like that since the second game of the year. That was Kluber at his best, but he's done it so many times and done it so consistently."

By striking out 11 Tampa Bay hitters, Kluber moved into sole possession of sixth place on the Indians' single-season strikeout list. Only Sam McDowell and Bob Feller have recorded more strikeouts than Kluber in one year as a member of the Tribe. Feller boasts the Cleveland record with 348 strikeouts in 1946.

Kluber's 10th strikeout -- a swinging takedown of David DeJesus in the eighth inning -- marked the 1,429th punchout of the season for the Indians' pitching staff. That established a single-season Major League team record, surpassing the 1,428 strikeouts turned in by the Tigers in 2013. By the end of the game, Cleveland had upped that mark to 1,431 strikeouts.

"It's pretty cool," closer Cody Allen said of the record. "But it doesn't always translate into a ton of wins. We'd be willing to trade that record for about five or six more wins. But, it's pretty cool to be a part of."

Kluber's lone run of support came in the first inning, when Jose Ramirez launched a 1-2 pitch from Chris Archer to deep right field. The ball just cleared the wall for the rookie shortstop's second homer of the season, helping the Tribe collect their only 1-0 win of the season.

With Kluber at 106 pitches and in line for the win, Francona handed the ball to Allen to finish the job. The hard-throwing right-hander held the Rays off the board in the ninth inning, picking up his 24th save to seal the victory.

Asked what aspect of this season brings him the most pride, Kluber did not hesitate.

"I'd say just the consistency," he said. "Taking the ball every time and going out there and, for the most part, giving the team a chance to win."

Archer was also strong for Tampa Bay, logging 7 2/3 innings en route to a hard-luck loss. Then again, a lot of pitchers have been out-dueled this season by Kluber, who has now notched 11 double-digit strikeout games this season. Only McDowell (17 in 1965 and 13 in '68) and Feller (12 in '46) have had more 10-plus strikeout showings in one campaign.

With his signature two-seam sinker, and devastating slider, Kluber turned in innings that were fitting summations of his dominant season.

In the first inning, Kluber showed off the power approach, using 18 pitches to strike out Ben Zobrist, DeJesus and Evan Longoria in order. In the sixth inning, when the Rays adopted a more aggressive approach, the righty willingly accepted the early contact, creating three outs in a four-batter span on a mere six pitches.

"You don't know what's coming at you," Rays outfielder Kevin Kiermaier said. "He always has you guessing and you can't give up on certain pitches, and he did a good job tonight of really mowing us down with all four pitches that he has."

It was the kind of outing Cleveland has come to expect from Kluber, whose breakout showing this season played a large role in keeping the team in contention to this point.

The only question now is whether Kluber's effort will net him some season-end hardware.

"That would be awesome," Allen said. "All of us in here, we think he deserves it. We think he should win the Cy Young, but it isn't up to us. I think he's put in a pretty good body of work. He's pretty deserving of it."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Cleveland's improbable postseason run ends with A's win

Cleveland's improbable postseason run ends with A's win

CLEVELAND -- The Indians enjoyed only a brief taste of the postseason a year ago, playing in front of a packed Progressive Field in the American League Wild Card Game. It was an electric evening for the city, but one that served as an October tease when the Tribe lost to the Rays.

On Friday night, the Indians picked up a 1-0 win over Tampa Bay behind a strong performance from Corey Kluber, but this was hardly a case of payback. This was a win built on desperation, and it still led to another night of deflation as Cleveland saw its improbable road to the postseason officially end.

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Oakland's win over the Rangers kept the Indians three games back of the second Wild Card spot with only two games to go. That knocked Cleveland out of the mix.

"Yes, after the last year, we would've liked to be right back in the playoffs," second baseman Jason Kipnis said last week. "But, you can tell there is a reason guys bought in here."

Kipnis referred to the fact that he, along with players such as Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes and Carlos Santana, signed a long-term extension with the idea of bringing a winning culture back to Cleveland. To that end, the Indians will finish this season above the break-even mark, giving the organization consecutive winning seasons for the first time since 2000-01.

There were a pile of unpredicted injuries and issues this season, but Cleveland found a way -- amidst a mid-season youth movement -- to remain in the running for a Wild Card spot until Game 160. Key players such as Nick Swisher, Michael Bourn and Kipnis dealt with injuries at various points, while Opening Day starter Justin Masterson and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera were traded away in July.

Still, the Indians stayed in the hunt until the season's final series.

"That says a lot for the character of the team," said Kluber, who went 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA and 269 strikeouts this season. "We've had a lot of change in certain areas throughout the year. At times, we didn't play up to our capabilities, but the fact that [we were] still grinding and [were] still in it, I think that says a lot about the character."

If Cleveland wins one of its final two games, it will mark the first time since 1997 that the club has pieced together five straight months with at least a .500 record. Where the Indians went awry this season was April, posting an 11-17 record to get off on the wrong foot. They posted winning records in May and July and went 18-9 in August to pull close to the Wild Card race by the start of September.

That made things interesting, but the Tribe could not make up the ground lost early in the year.

"I hear people say that all the time, that, 'Well, you have to play well in September,'" Bourn said. "Yeah, you do, but the whole season counts. You don't want to put your back against the wall, especially with the kind of team we have. We have a young team, so you don't want to put your back against the wall late."

There are still reasons to believe Cleveland can bounce back in '15. First and foremost, its rotation -- led by Kluber and Carlos Carrasco -- developed into one of the best staffs in baseball in the second half. The Indians will also have key members of the offense looking to turn in strong comeback campaigns.

"We have a great group of guys in this locker room," Brantley said. "We have great core guys and guys that are coming in here, having fun, playing the game hard and playing the game the right way. We did a lot of great things this year. ... It's been an exciting year. A lot of challenges, but we're going to grow stronger from it."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Tribe sets MLB single-season strikeout record

Staff has fanned 1,431 batters in 2014, setting a new mark

Tribe sets MLB single-season strikeout record

CLEVELAND -- Corey Kluber unleashed his signature sinker in the eighth inning on Friday night and pushed the Indians to a Major League record.

When Tampa Bay's David DeJesus swung through the 95-mph two-seamer from Cleveland's Cy Young Award candidate, the Tribe established a benchmark for team strikeouts in a single season. The Indians ended Friday's 1-0 victory with a dozen punchouts, giving their pitching staff 1,431 on the year.

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"It says we've got good pitchers on our staff," Kluber said. "I guess that record probably speaks volumes for what kind of stuff we have as a staff. There are times throughout the year when we probably didn't pitch up to our capabilities, but I think that's a reflection of what we're capable of when we do."

The previous standard for team strikeouts in a season was established by the 2013 Tigers, who fanned 1,428 batters en route to the American League Central crown. Detroit surpassed the 2003 Cubs' mark of 1,404 strikeouts, which is still a National League record. It is worth noting that this year's Rays have 1,419 strikeouts.

Kluber's strikeout of DeJesus in the eighth inning gave Cleveland the MLB record, but the right-hander then extended the mark with a strikeout of Evan Longoria to end the inning. In the ninth, Indians closer Cody Allen added a strikeout of his own.

"It's nice. It's fun," Allen said of the record. "It's pretty cool, but it doesn't always translate into a ton of wins. We'd be willing to trade that record for about five or six more wins. But, it's pretty cool to be a part of."

Kluber, who ended with 11 strikeouts to give him an MLB-leading 269 this season, has led the charge. His 269 is the sixth-most in a single season in the franchise's long, storied history. Behind Kluber on the staff are Trevor Bauer (143), Carlos Carrasco (130) and Danny Salazar (120). Allen's 91 strikeouts are the most in a season by an Indians reliever since 1999, when Paul Shuey had 103 in 72 games.

"I think it talks to stuff," manager Terry Francona said of setting the MLB mark. "Those types of things happen when you are pitching correctly -- working ahead -- and add it in with stuff, it is going to equate to more strikeouts."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Swish, Giambi not surprised by former 'mate Jeter's walk-off

Swish, Giambi not surprised by former 'mate Jeter's walk-off

CLEVELAND -- Indians designated hitter Nick Swisher watched Derek Jeter's final home game with the Yankees from start to finish on Thursday night. When Jeter delivered a walk-off hit in his final at-bat in pinstripes, Swisher felt it was the perfect conclusion to an amazing career.

"I don't know any other way he could've ended his career other than that," said Swisher, who was teammates with Jeter in New York from 2009-12. "You can't script that, man. I think the biggest thing people need to understand is things like that don't happen.

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"They only happen to certain people, and he's one of those people. He's a god. He's an absolute god."

Indians veteran Jason Giambi, who played with Jeter with the Yankees from 2002-08, echoed that sentiment.

"It wasn't surprising," Giambi said. "His whole career has been storybook. I've told people I'm more surprised that they didn't make the playoffs and win the World Series, with him hitting a walk-off in Game 7 to win it. That's him. That's his career. That's who he is. It's incredible to watch. He's a special person."

Indians manager Terry Francona saw plenty of Jeter during his days as manager of the Red Sox (2004-11), but his favorite personal memory of the shortstop comes before all the heroics in the Major Leagues. Francona also managed against Jeter in 1994 in the Arizona Fall League -- two years before the shortstop played his first full season with the Yankees.

Jeter made a jaw-dropping defensive play that stunned Francona.

"He went to his right, slid on a ball," Francona said. "[It was] not that jumping one he's kind of known for. He slid and threw from his butt. ... I remember sitting there thinking '[Dang], this kid, that was one [heck] of play.' I just saw it two years ahead of everybody else. I'll never forget that, because that was so athletic. It just kind of stopped you for a minute."

Francona agreed that Jeter's walk-off was a near-perfect ending to an incredible career.

"That probably sums up Jeter," Francona said. "He's always ready for the moment, and if it seems like maybe there's more moments with him, maybe it's because he makes them."

Quote to note
"There are days when we tell guys they're not available. The guys that pitch that much, there's a reason. They're competitive, they take the ball. But, sometimes you have to take it out of their hands and you've got to be sensible."
--Francona on handling his heavily-used bullpen

Smoke signals
Francona, along with Indians players Corey Kluber, T.J. House and Zach Walters, served as celebrity bartenders on Thursday night in a downtown event aimed at raising money for the VeloSano charity for cancer research.

"I had my hands full there," Francona said with a laugh. "Believe me, I had my hands full. I was a little out of my element. I think I actually hurt more than I helped."

• Entering Friday's game, All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley was riding a 15-game hitting streak, during which he had a .467 (28-for-60) average. Through 24 games in September, Brantley was hitting .436 (41-for-94) with a 1.075 OPS.

Carlos Santana headed into Friday's game with a Major League-leading 112 walks. Cleveland has not had a player lead the Majors in walks since 1919 (Jack Graney). Santana's 112 walks are the most by a Major League switch-hitter since 2004 (Lance Berkman).

• The Indians (1,419 strikeouts) headed into the weekend just 10 strikeouts shy of setting a single-season record for punchouts by a pitching staff. The big league record of 1,428 was set last season by the Tigers' pitching staff.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Kluber or King Felix? AL Cy Young voters have tough call

Seattle ace's rough start this week opens door for Cleveland right-hander

Kluber or King Felix? AL Cy Young voters have tough call

One is a household name and already has hardware in his trophy case. The other seemingly came out of nowhere this season as an emerging ace. With one regular-season start left for each pitcher, Felix Hernandez and Corey Kluber appear to be in a dead heat for the American League Cy Young Award.

When 2014 opened, Hernandez was already considered an AL Cy Young Award candidate, considering his track record and Seattle's offseason overhaul. Kluber had never logged a full season in the big leagues before this year, and he did not become the rotation's leader until the middle of the summer. Yet, here they are, neck and neck in an incredibly close race for the AL's top pitching honor.

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This is not to say that there are no other candidates worthy of consideration.

Jon Lester has pieced together an outstanding season, but his campaign is likely hindered by the fact that it has been split between Boston and Oakland. White Sox lefty Chris Sale has also excelled, but he missed a month's worth of starts due to an arm injury early in the year and does not boast the same innings total as the others. Max Scherzer, Phil Hughes and David Price all merit a look, but the balloting should be a two-horse race in the end.

Overall showing

The season is not over, but the body of work is only one start from completion for Hernandez and Kluber. The Seattle right-hander is scheduled to take the mound against the Angels on Sunday, while Cleveland's workhorse is in line to start against Tampa Bay on Friday. When Hernandez allowed eight runs in 4 2/3 innings on Tuesday, he heightened Kluber's chances of an award-season upset.

Picking between Hernandez and Kluber could come down to the voter's statistical preference. Kluber boasts more wins (17-9) than Hernandez (14-6), but the Indians starter also has more losses. Looking at the ERA column, Hernandez (2.34) has the slight edge over Kluber (2.53). They have worked nearly the same amount of innings (230 2/3 for Hernandez and 227 2/3 innings for Kluber) in 33 starts apiece.

Shifting to more advanced metrics, Kluber currently ranks first in the AL in Fangraphs.com's version of WAR (7.0), while Hernandez (6.0) comes in at fourth, behind Hughes and Lester. When it comes to FIP (Fielding Indendent Pitching), which is based on home runs, walks and hit batsmen (things under a pitcher's control), Kluber has a 2.38 mark compared to 2.60 for Hernandez. That is a slim margin, but it is nearly the same gap as the difference in ERA for the pitchers.

Kluber has piled up 258 strikeouts against 49 walks, while Hernandez has tallied 241 strikeouts against 46 walks. Their strikeout-to-walk ratios (5.24 for Hernandez and 5.27 for Kluber) are nearly identical. Hernandez (0.94) does have the edge in WHIP on Kluber (1.10). Opposing batters have hit .233 (.629 OPS) against Kluber, but just .201 (.556) off Hernandez.

When it matters

Given how close Hernandez and Kluber are in terms of overall stats, an AL Cy Young Award voter will want to strip back a few layers to perhaps find a separator. Both the Mariners and Indians were involved in postseason chases until the final week of the regular season, so the pitchers' respective performances down the stretch might sway some ballots.

In the second half, Kluber was clearly the better of the two pitchers.

In 13 second-half outings to date, Kluber has gone 8-3 with a 1.88 ERA, 1.84 FIP and 0.97 WHIP. The right-hander has piled up 116 strikeouts against only 17 walks in 96 innings in that span, earning a 3.7 WAR rating, according to Fangraphs. He is 4-1 with a 2.57 ERA so far in September. Simply put, when the Tribe needed him most, Kluber elevated his game to another level.

For the Mariners, Hernandez has gone 3-4 with a 2.71 ERA in 13 second-half starts, though it is fair to note that Tuesday's disaster in Toronto skewed the stats. Still, the right-hander has turned in a 3.57 FIP, 1.00 WHIP and posted a 1.1 WAR since the All-Star break. That is still a solid showing, but it falls well short of what Kluber did in the same time period.

That said, Hernandez (2.50 ERA, 5.0 WAR) was better than Kluber (3.01 ERA, 3.3 WAR) in the first half.

Hernandez has also performed better against top-tier competition. Facing teams with a winning record this season (18 of 33 starts), Seattle's ace has gone 9-4 with a 2.50 ERA. He has gone 4-2 with a 2.54 ERA in nine starts against the AL's top five offenses (in terms of OPS). Kluber has gone 7-7 with a 2.67 ERA in 17 starts against teams with a winning record and 5-5 with a 3.20 ERA in 12 games against the AL's top five lineups.

Uncontrollable elements

The primary argument over putting too much stock in a pitcher's win total is that there are so many factors that are out of his control. The man on the mound can only throw the pitch. He has no say in what his team's defense or offense does that night. That is one reason why Hernandez took home the AL Cy Young Award in 2010 with a 13-12 record.

One thing that should be strongly considered for Kluber's AL Cy Young Award case this year is the defense he had behind him. Cleveland currently has the most errors in the AL, and the club's overall UZR (minus 70.9) is the worst in the league, according to Fangraphs. The Mariners, meanwhile, ranks sixth in the league in UZR (8.9) and Defensive Runs Saved.

There is also the fact that Hernandez pitches roughly half his games in Seattle's Safeco Park, which has been the most pitcher-friendly park in the AL this season. Progressive Field in Cleveland has also favored pitchers in 2014, but not to the same degree. Hernandez has gone 9-3 with a 2.12 ERA in 16 home starts, while Kluber has gone 8-6 with a 2.49 in 17 home outings.

In terms of run support, both pitchers have been hindered this season.

In Kluber's 16 starts that resulted in a loss or no-decision, the Tribe's lineup has produced 2.6 runs of support on average. The righty has a 2.31 ERA in his seven no-decisions this year. Similarly, Hernandez has received 2.7 runs of support in the 19 outings that resulted in a loss or no-decision. He has posted a 1.88 ERA in 13 no-decisions.

Who wins?

The AL Cy Young Award race remains too close to call.

If voters appreciate higher performance with postseason implications, Kluber might be their guy. If the voter likes ERA or history (Hernandez set a Major League record this year with 16 straight starts with at least seven innings and no more than two earned runs allowed), then maybe King Felix will be their pick.

If they are unable to decide between the two, maybe the voters will toss more votes Lester's way.

Every year, another element that is often discussed is what the player in question meant to his team. If neither the Indians or Mariners make the playoffs, some voters might think that issue is rendered moot. One quick way to show what Hernandez and Kluber meant for their respective teams, though, is to examine how the rest of the rotation did without them.

After removing Kluber's starts, the Indians' rotation went a combined 31-45 with a 4.32 ERA and a 1.36 WHIP this season. If the same is done with Hernandez and Seattle's starting staff, the result is a 46-49 record, a 3.92 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP for the Mariners' rotation. Both pitchers are critical to their clubs, but Kluber was arguably more important for Cleveland's ability to hang in the Wild Card race.

The only thing that is clear right now is that the AL Cy Young Award race took an unexpected turn this year.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Swisher admits playing through pain in knees

Swisher admits playing through pain in knees

CLEVELAND -- The Indians' clubhouse got a little louder on Wednesday. After spending the past five weeks rehabbing in Los Angeles, Nick Swisher returned to spend the final four games of the regular season with the team.

Swisher, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on both knees on Aug. 20, was feeling much improved and looking forward to using the coming offseason to return to full strength for the Tribe. As he reflects on his lost season, the first baseman and designated hitter is willing to admit that he played too long through discomfort in his knees.

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"I don't complain a lot about things," Swisher said. "I was brought here to come and play on the field and be here every day, and that's what I wanted to do whether I was hurt or I wasn't. I'm never going to be one of those guys that says I can't do something. So, I think that looking back on it, maybe this should've been handled a little earlier. But, hey, man, you live and you learn."

The 33-year-old Swisher -- signed to a four-year, $56-million contract prior to last season -- said he first felt discomfort in his right knee in San Diego at the end of Spring Training. Over the course of the season, he then began experiencing pain in both knees, which eventually sent him to the disabled list for good on Aug. 10 in New York.

Ten days later, Dr. Neal ElAttrache performed debridement procedures on both knees, cleaning out "a lot of things that shouldn't have been there," as Swisher phrased it. The Indians had Swisher stay in L.A., where the operation took place, to initiate the early stage of the veteran's rehab schedule. This week in Cleveland, Swisher will work with the team's medical staff on mapping out an offseason plan.

"It might've been my fault not to say anything earlier, but that's not my style," Swisher said. "What's done is done. I've just got to get really, really excited for next year. Everything for me is going to be pushed up. I've had my month-and-a-half break, so now my training starts a month-and-a-half earlier. I've got four-and-a-half months, starting in October, to get myself ready [for Spring Training]."

Prior to this season, Swisher's only other times on the disabled list came during his first full season in 2005. In the eight years between his two injury-marred seasons, he posted a .257/.362/.464 slash line with an average of 26 homers and 82 RBIs per season. In his two seasons with Cleveland, Swisher has hit .231/.316/.386 with 30 homers and 105 RBIs in 242 games.

This season, Swisher hit .208 with eight home runs and 42 RBIs in 97 games, ending a streak of nine consecutive years with at least 20 homers.

"A lot of guys on our team have played through a lot, and Swish is one of them," manager Terry Francona said before the series finale against the Royals. "Guys want to stay on the field. They're trying to do everything in their power to be productive. Sometimes, that cuts into production. Sometimes it gets a little worse. You do the best you can and that's why you have trainers."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Gordon's diving catch stands after Tribe challenge

Gordon's diving catch stands after Tribe challenge

CLEVELAND -- With the Indians' season hanging by a thread, manager Terry Francona did not hesitate to challenge a seventh-inning catch by Royals left fielder Alex Gordon in Wednesday night's 6-4 victory at Progressive Field. The play was ruled as stands, but Francona did not want to take any chances.

Cleveland held a 6-4 lead when shortstop Jose Ramirez lofted a pitch from Kansas City reliever Kelvin Herrera to left field to open the seventh. Gordon sprinted in and made a diving catch for an out, but the ball appeared to bounce up into the outfielder's glove as he tumbled to the grass.

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While it looked like a trap on the part of Gordon, the replays did not clearly show whether the baseball first hit the ground or the edge of the left fielder's glove. The umpires at Progressive Field consulted with the replay crew in New York, who ruled the call stands.

The home crowd, which saw a slow-motion replay on the stadium scoreboard, unleashed a chorus of boos after Kansas City was rewarded with an out. As a result, Francona slipped to 18-for-33 this season on having calls overturned on a managerial challenge.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Kluber gets Francona's vote for AL Cy Young

Kluber gets Francona's vote for AL Cy Young

CLEVELAND -- With only a handful of games left on the regular-season slate, there appears to be a two-horse race for the American League Cy Young Award. Mariners ace Felix Hernandez has been a favorite throughout the summer, but Cleveland's Corey Kluber has emerged as a serious contender.

Indians manager Terry Francona has not had time to pore over the numbers to say whether he feels Kluber has had a better overall season that Hernandez. That said, Francona probably does not need to look at the statistics to declare that Kluber would be his pick for the annual award.

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"The guys you're talking about in the Cy Young voting are all pretty good," Francona said. "They all, in their own way, have excelled at a really high level. I don't know where Kluber's going to fall in all of this. I'm so biased. We're supposed to be biased. He's our guy. I haven't looked at the other guys enough to know where he fits. I probably wouldn't have the ability to look at it objectively anyway."

Kluber, whose final start of the regular season is scheduled for Friday's series opener against Tampa Bay, has gone 17-9 with a 2.53 ERA in 33 starts. The right-hander has piled up 258 strikeouts against 49 walks in 227 2/3 innings, posting a 1.10 WHIP and 2.38 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) in the process.

While Oakland's Jon Lester, Chicago's Chris Sale and Detroit's Max Scherzer each merit consideration, Kluber's main competitor for the Cy Young looks to be Hernandez. The Seattle righty has gone 14-6 with a 2.34 ERA in 33 starts, in which he has 241 strikeouts, 46 walks, a 0.94 WHIP and a 2.60 FIP. On Tuesday, Hernandez hurt his case by allowing eight runs in just 4 2/3 innings in Toronto.

The Indians could not have known that Kluber was on the cusp of a Cy Young-caliber season, but the team has felt for a while that they had an emerging leader in the fold.

"Going back to Spring Training," Francona said, "a lot of times I said I thought Kluber could be pretty special. ... I'm not terribly shocked at what he's doing. When you are around him every day, you see his work ethic and we started to see it last year."

Quote to note

"I'm just stoked to be back, man. I get to put on a uniform today. I'm so excited. Either way, I just think it's been hard to be at home and watching all the games on TV."
-- Indians first baseman Nick Swisher

Smoke signals

Jose Ramirez entered Wednesday with 13 sacrifice bunts through 64 games. The last American League batter with at least 13 sac bunts in 70 or fewer games was Steve Lubratich, who had 13 in 57 games with the Angels. Lubratich is currently the Indians' director of pro scouting.

• With a pair of hits in Tuesday's loss to the Royals, All-Star Michael Brantley upped his season total to 196 hits. Brantley is aiming to become the first Cleveland hitter to reach 200 hits in a season since 1996, when Kenny Lofton had 210.

• Second baseman Jason Kipnis, who has been battling a right hamstring injury for at least a week, remained out of the starting lineup on Wednesday. Kipnis has missed five of the past eight games with the issue and has not played the field since Thursday.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Carrasco apologizes for criticizing Tribe's defense

Carrasco apologizes for criticizing Tribe's defense

CLEVELAND -- Indians pitcher Carlos Carrasco criticized his defense in the immediate aftermath of Monday's tough 2-0 loss to the Royals. One day later, the right-hander regretted his postgame comments and issued an apology through the team.

"It was a terribly immature and foolish thing to say," Carrasco said. "I know better and I apologize for saying it. I have made some terrible pitches in my career and position players could have questioned what I was doing. No one wants to be criticized when making their best effort. I will apologize to everyone and it won't happen again."

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Manager Terry Francona received a text message from Carrasco on Tuesday morning and then briefly met with the pitcher in the afternoon. Francona was happy that Carrasco took the initiative to apologize not only to the manager, but to his teammates.

"I got a text from Carlos. He was kind of rattled and upset," Francona said. "I didn't even know what he was talking about. So then he kind of explained it. ... The fact that he was upset that he said it, and he caught it -- he didn't try to backtrack and he apologized -- I thought his apology was really sincere."

Carrasco worked 7 1/3 innings, allowing two runs on seven hits. Both runs came on hard-hit balls that skipped off the glove of a Cleveland defender.

First baseman Chris Gimenez was unable to catch a line drive in the first inning, resulting in an RBI single for Kansas City's Eric Hosmer. In the fifth, Tribe shortstop Jose Ramirez missed on a backhanded swipe at a grounder by Alcides Escobar, allowing the Royals' second run to score.

Neither play was an error, but that did not stop Carrasco from being critical in the wake of a defeat that hurt the Indians' chances of claiming an American League Wild Card spot.

"We should've made those plays right there. That cost me two runs," Carrasco said on Monday night. "I thought they had a pretty good chance of making them, but sometimes we don't make those plays. That can cost us."

Heading into Tuesday's game with Kansas City, Cleveland's defense led the Major Leagues with 113 errors. The defensive miscues have played a large role in hindering the club's attempt to rise in the AL Central and the AL Wild Card standings.

Gimenez was impressed by the step Carrasco took on Tuesday, but the veteran utility man said he also apologized to the pitcher for not making the catch in the first inning.

"I went up to him and said, 'Listen, it hit my glove. I should've caught it,'" Gimenez said. "It's my fault I didn't catch it. [His comments] didn't bug me at all. ... I understand. I'd be more upset if he was more like, 'Oh, whatever.' I think it shows a lot that he did apologize for it, but it didn't affect me any, because I apologized to him before he said anything. But it definitely shows a lot out of him, his maturity level."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Relief corps sets new record with Atchison's appearance

Relief corps sets new record with Atchison's appearance

CLEVELAND -- Terry Francona had already established an American League record for calls to a bullpen in a single season. On Tuesday night, the Indians manager's propensity for multiple pitching changes helped Cleveland's relief corps achieve another milestone.

When Francona summoned veteran Scott Atchison from the 'pen in the seventh inning of the Tribe's 7-1 loss, Cleveland saw a fourth reliever reach at least 70 appearances this season. Prior to this year, no American League team in baseball history had four pitchers notch that many outings in a single campaign.

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"His care is there," Atchison said this past weekend about Francona. "I know everybody has talked about how much work we've had and all this, but we're all in pretty good shape. He genuinely cares about all of us and wants to make sure that nobody is hurt."

Setup man Bryan Shaw worked the ninth inning on Tuesday, giving him a Major League-leading 78 appearances this season. The right-hander is now one appearance shy of tying Bobby Howry's single-season franchise record of 79 games in 2005. Closer Cody Allen (74), lefty Marc Rzepczynski (71) and Atchison (70) are also in the 70-game club this year.

This season's Indians are just the 12th team in Major League history to have at least four players appear in at least 70 games in a season. The big league record of five was set by the 2006 Astros (Brad Lidge, Trever Miller, Chad Qualls, Russ Springer and Dan Wheeler). The last team to accomplish the feat was the Brewers in 2012.

With six relievers used in Tuesday's loss, Cleveland also upped its AL record for total relief appearances in one season to 563, which is the third-highest total in Major League history. Only the 2007 Nationals (588) and 2012 Rockies (575) ranked higher than the Indians on that list.

The Indians also boast Major League records for most games in one season with at least six pitchers (37) and most games in a year with at least seven pitchers (21).

"We've asked a lot of them," Francona said this past weekend. "We've tried to pitch them as much as we can without going too far. And part of what I think has helped is we trust every one of them to be honest with us [about how they're feeling]. ... They are answering the call and they complement each other."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Francona: I told you Kluber wasn't fatigued

Francona: I told you Kluber wasn't fatigued

CLEVELAND -- At the start of September, right-hander Corey Kluber did not like answering questions about possibly fighting fatigue. Indians manager Terry Francona was not too thrilled with having to address that issue, either.

With one week left on the regular-season slate, Kluber had done more than enough to end such speculation, while also increasing his chances of challenging for the American League Cy Young Award. After the way Kluber has pitched in his past four starts for Cleveland, Francona had a message for anyone who questioned the starter's stamina.

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"I'm going to fall back on, 'I told you so,'" Francona said on Monday. "He wasn't tired, and everybody wanted to jump on and nag at Klubes, and I think he was aggravated by it. He's worked too hard."

On Sunday in Minnesota, Kluber matched a career high by striking out 14 batters in his eight-inning gem against the Twins. The right-hander has struck out 14 in consecutive starts, becoming the first pitcher (and just the ninth in the past 100 seasons) to have at least that many punchouts in back-to-back outings since Randy Johnson achieved the feat in 2004.

Kluber has been nothing short of spectacular in his four starts since giving up five runs in only 2 2/3 innings against the Tigers on Sept. 1. Since that outing, the right-hander has gone 4-0 with a 1.39 ERA and 43 strikeouts against three walks in 32 1/3 innings. For his work in his past two starts (2-0, 1.80 ERA), Kluber was named the AL's Player of the Week.

Through 33 starts this season, Kluber has gone 17-9 with a 2.53 ERA and an AL-leading 258 strikeouts in 227 2/3 innings.

"He had just gotten a little across his body for a couple starts there," said Francona, referring to the three-start stretch from Aug. 21-Sept. 1 in which Kluber went 0-3 with a 6.19 ERA. "He and [pitching coach Mickey Callaway] got together and kind of got him back on line. It's amazing how crisp he is. He commands his pitches so well that, man, he's just really good.

"Then, you take the intangibles and put it with his stuff, and that's turning him into one of the better pitchers in the game. That's very exciting."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Kluber claims AL Player of the Week honor

Kluber claims AL Player of the Week honor

As his breakout season continues, Indians starter Corey Kluber has racked up an additional accolade -- being named the American League Player of the Week for Sept. 15-21.

It's the second time in his career Kluber has received the award (June 16, 2013) and the fourth time this season an Indians player has been honored.

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Kluber went 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA last week, walking three and striking out a Major League-best 28 hitters in 15 innings. He led the league in innings pitched and was tied for first in wins.

On Tuesday, against the Astros, Kluber gave up one run on seven hits and struck out a career-best 14 over seven innings. He became the seventh pitcher to rack up 14 strikeouts this year and the first Tribe pitcher with 14 or more since Bartolo Colon on May 29, 1998. Kluber was just the second pitcher in team history to do so in seven or fewer innings (Sam McDowell in six innings on Sept. 18, 1966).

Kluber struck out two in each frame, becoming just the second pitcher in the Majors since 2008 to toss at least seven multi-strikeout innings in the same game.

Kluber was back at it Sunday, holding the Twins to two runs on seven hits with 14 more strikeouts over eight innings. He's the ninth pitcher all-time (and second Cleveland hurler, joining McDowell) with at least 14 strikeouts in consecutive starts -- and the first since Randy Johnson in 2001.

Kluber's 17 wins are the most by an Indians pitcher since Cliff Lee in 2008 and the most by a Tribe right-hander since Roberto Hernandez in '07.

Joey Nowak is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Tribe's McAllister makes most of bullpen time

Tribe's McAllister makes most of bullpen time

MINNEAPOLIS -- When it comes to the Indians' starting rotation, there is currently no room in the inn for right-hander Zach McAllister. Under the circumstances, the pitcher has tried to make the most of his September stint in the bullpen.

McAllister flashed increased fastball velocity and turned in two key relief appearances in the first two games of Cleveland's three-game weekend series in Minnesota. The right-hander's recent showing has impressed manager Terry Francona and the Tribe's staff, but it is too soon to begin speculation about a potential role change for the starting pitcher.

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"He actually seems like he's become another option, kind of a weapon, which is really good," Francona said on Sunday. "Moving forward, [considering future roles] are why you have meetings in the winter. Who knows what the roster is? I think, if guys can pitch, that's more important than handing out roles in September."

In the seventh inning of Cleveland's 5-4, 10-inning loss on Friday, McAllister recorded the final out of the seventh inning, stranding two runners and preserving a 4-3 lead at the time. On Saturday, the righty logged two scoreless innings, striking out five and helping Francona avoid using relievers Scott Atchison, Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen in the Indians' 7-3 win.

"That was huge," Francona said of McAllister's outing on Saturday. "That was a bridge to staying away from the other three and holding [the Twins] at bay. That was really big."

Francona has noted a handful of times that McAllister's fastball "plays up" out of the bullpen. Along those lines, the righty averaged slightly more then 97 mph on Friday and Saturday, according to PITCHf/x data compiled on brooksbaseball.net. In April and May, when McAllister was in Cleveland's rotation, he averaged around 93 mph on his heater.

McAllister has averaged 11.7 strikeouts per nine innings in his brief experience (7 2/3 innings) as a reliever this season, compared to 7.4 per nine innings in his 15 starts this season. As a starter, the right-hander went 3-7 with a 5.67 ERA this year.

"It's different. I'm just ready whenever my name's called," McAllister said of working out of the bullpen. "You're probably a little more amped up than usual [in relief situations]. Being a starter, you have that time to relax and catch your breath and go at it again. Coming out of the bullpen, you're thrown right into it and expected to get them out. It's a fun challenge."

Quote to note
"We know where we're at. To stress about it or to put pressure on ourselves, that's only going to [make it] worse. I think we just come in here every day with this one game on our mind. One game at a time is how I feel like we're approaching it right now. "
-- Indians lefty T.J. House, on the Tribe's postseason chase

Smoke signals
• Cleveland established a unique Major League and franchise record on Saturday by registering at least 12 strikeouts as a pitching staff for the fifth consecutive game. The previous club mark of four such games in a row (also done by three other teams in the past 100 seasons) was achieved by the Tribe from Sept. 21-25, 2013.

• Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, who missed the past two games due to a right hamstring issue, returned to the starting lineup on Sunday as Cleveland's designated hitter. Francona said Kipnis has been fighting through the injury for at least the past week.

• The Indians headed into play Sunday with a 10-10 record in September. If Cleveland finishes the month at .500 or better, it will mark the first time since May-Sept. of 1997 that the club posted at least a .500 record in five consecutive months.

• All-Star left fielder Michael Brantley entered Sunday's game riding an 11-game hitting streak, during which he had a .432 (19-for-44) average. Brantley (190 hits) is aiming to notch Cleveland's first 200-hit season since 1996, when Kenny Lofton accomplished the feat.

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Brantley takes pride in 20/20 season

Brantley takes pride in 20/20 season

MINNEAPOLIS -- Michael Brantley would surely say that a win was his preference on Friday night, but the Indians' All-Star left fielder understands and appreciates what he accomplished in the extra-inning loss to the Twins.

When Brantley launched a leadoff home run in the sixth inning of Cleveland's 5-4 defeat, he became only the ninth Indians player to achieve at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases in a single season. Combined with some of his other statistical marks and Brantley is piecing together one of the best all-around offensive seasons in franchise history.

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"He's kind of taken it to another level," Indians manager Terry Francona said on Saturday. "He's a pretty good student of the game and he's got the skills to match. You kind of add those up and it turns into a special player."

Heading into Saturday's action, Brantley was batting .322 with 20 home runs, 20 steals, 41 doubles, 91 runs, 95 RBIs and 188 hits through 149 games for the Tribe. He has joined Shin-Soo Choo (2009-10), Grady Sizemore ('05-08), Matt Lawton ('04), Roberto Alomar ('99, '01), Albert Belle ('93), Joe Carter ('86-88), Bobby Bonds ('79) and Toby Harrah ('79) as the only players in Cleveland history to enjoy a 20/20 season.

If Brantley ends this season hitting at least .320, he will also become only the ninth Major League player in the past 100 seasons to hit .320 or better with at least 20 homers, 20 steals, 40 doubles and 90 RBIs in one year. The exclusive list includes Jacoby Ellsbury ('11), Hanley Ramirez ('09), David Wright ('07), Alomar ('99), Larry Walker ('97), Ellis Burks ('96), Chuck Klein ('32) and Babe Herman ('29).

Brantley said his goal was to eventually develop into this kind of all-around threat.

"Of course," Brantley said. "I want to use every tool that I can and make sure that I continue every day to push myself and continue to work hard. At the end of the year, I'll look back at this and we'll go from there. Each and every day, I'm just trying to get better."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Francona sets AL record with pitching change

Francona sets AL record with pitching change

MINNEAPOLIS -- The phone inside the Indians' bullpen has rung more than any other in the history of the American League.

When Indians manager Terry Francona exited the visitors' dugout at Target Field and strolled to the pitcher's mound in the seventh inning on Friday night, he set a new standard for bullpen usage. Marc Rzepczynski's outing against the Twins marked the 541st relief appearance by Cleveland this year, setting a league record.

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"That was not the goal going into the year," Francona said with a smirk prior to Friday's game. "What's amazing to me is, normally, if that's the case, your bullpen is getting roughed up. They just continue to be a weapon. That is all because of, not only their ability, but their work ethic."

Francona was asked if he knew who set the previous record.

"Tony La Russa?" asked the manager.

No, in fact, it was Francona who set the prior mark by calling Cleveland's bullpen 540 times during the 2013 season, when the Indians reached the AL Wild Card Game. This year, the Tribe is in the middle of the Wild Card hunt once again and the team's reliable relief corps has played an integral role in keeping the club afloat in the postseason chase.

According to baseball-reference.com, there had been 63 teams in the past 100 seasons to reach at least 500 combined relief appearances in a single season, entering Friday. Among those teams, Cleveland's 3.16 bullpen ERA ranked third overall and first among the seven AL clubs on the list. The Major League record is 588, which was set in 2007 by the Nationals under former manager Manny Acta.

Veteran Tribe reliever Scott Atchison said Francona, along with pitching coach Mickey Callaway and bullpen coach Kevin Cash, have done a good job of keeping a close eye on the relievers' respective workloads. To that point, Cleveland's 487 relief innings heading into Friday's action were ranked 52nd among the 63 teams with at least 500 relief appearances in a season.

"Some of it is a testament to how versatile our 'pen is," Atchison said. "We have so many guys that can do so many different things. ... They've used us the right way. If you're going to have this much use, they've used us all well and given us breaks. Everybody feels good and strong and healthy. Nobody is coming in every day saying, 'I can't go, because I've been used too much.' They monitor all that."

Helping to distribute the innings has been the fact that the Indians have carried at least eight relievers for most of this season. That, combined with the starting rotation's strong second half, has contributed to Cleveland's bullpen remaining a strength deep into September.

"We've asked a lot of them," Francona said. "We've tried to pitch them as much as we can without going too far. And part of what I think has helped is we trust every one of them to be honest with us [about how they're feeling]. ... They are answering the call and they complement each other."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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