Inbox: What will the Indians' bullpen look like in 2015?

Beat reporter Jordan Bastian answers Tribe fans' questions

Inbox: What will the Indians' bullpen look like in 2015?

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What kind of relievers do you think Cleveland will be interested in this offseason? And will Cody Allen still be the relief ace?
-- @EdTheRevelator (via Twitter)

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Let's start with Allen. A year ago at this time, no one would've complained about Cleveland handing him the closing role. Manager Terry Francona really liked using Allen as his "stopper," though, giving high-leverage situations to the right-hander without a designated inning attached to his title. So, that's the role Allen filled when the season began.

Giving John Axford a second chance at being a closer did not work out as hoped for the Indians, and Allen went ahead and claimed the ninth-inning job by midsummer anyway. As we sit here today, there is no reason not to enter 2015 with Allen as the closer, or "relief ace," as you phrased it. Over the 2013-14 seasons, Allen has a 2.25 ERA with 179 strikeouts in 140 innings.

Essentially, the back end of the bullpen can return intact, barring a trade or two. Francona's top four relief arms -- Bryan Shaw (80 appearances), Allen (76), Marc Rzepczynski (73) and Scott Atchison (70) -- are all under contractual control for at least 2015. Shaw and Rzepczynski are eligible for arbitration, Atchison is signed through next year with a team option for '16 and Allen will still be in a pre-arbitration season.

What this will allow Cleveland to do is search for ways to strengthen the depth of the bullpen. In terms of free agency, this could mean shorter-term contracts or a handful of non-roster invitees are on Cleveland's radar. Really, there is no need to reshape the main components of the bullpen. Over the past two years combined, Cleveland's 3.37 ERA is the fourth-best in the American League. The Tribe ranked fourth in the AL with a 3.12 ERA in '14.

Behind the primary four arms, the Indians have two lefties (Kyle Crockett and Nick Hagadone) who were reliable down the stretch. Unless he is dealt, Hagadone is a safe bet to make the Opening Day roster, because he is out of Minor League options. Internally, Cleveland also has some young right-handed options in C.C. Lee, Austin Adams and Bryan Price.

How can the Indians improve on defense this offseason and going into Spring Training?
-- Jordan B., Canal Fulton, Ohio

I think the Indians already took a major step toward improving the overall defense by using Jose Ramirez at shortstop and Carlos Santana at first base in the second half. The next step will be shoring up the defense at second and third base. That could involve retooled offseason conditioning and training programs, or increased work come Spring Training.

During his season-end sitdown with reporters, general manager Chris Antonetti did not rule out targeting defensive-minded additions over the offseason. One problematic area was third base, though things were helped by moving Santana off the position in the middle of the season. Looking down the road, if Lonnie Chisenhall's defensive struggles continue, the Indians have a sure-handed third-base prospect rising fast in Giovanny Urshela.

Next year, could Zach Walters be a platoon partner at third base for Chisenhall?
-- @Lark_11 (via Twitter)

It will be interesting to see what happens with Walters this spring and then for the start of the season. All we know for now is that Cleveland will take a look at the young switch-hitter at a variety of positions (infield and outfield) during Spring Training. A player capable of handling multiple positions and switch-hitting with power is the kind of weapon Francona loves to have on his roster.

While it's hard to evaluate Walters' Major League sample (.193 average and .452 slugging percentage in 135 at-bats), he did hit .377 (26-for-69) against lefties at Triple-A last year. That's also a small sample, but it makes a platoon with Chisenhall an intriguing idea. Chisenhall thrived at the plate early on last year in a similar situation with Santana. That said, third is not Walters' strongest position defensively.

It seems to be a popular subject in Cleveland that the Indians should sign a big right-handed bat this offseason. Can the Indians fill this role with one of their underachieving players like Nick Swisher, or Santana playing like he did the second half, but all year?
-- Jeff D., Canton, Ohio

Santana led the team with 27 home runs and 113 walks, so I'm not going to complain too much about his overall production, even if the batting average could have been higher. As for Swisher, definitely, there is a ton of room for improvement and a return to his previous form could quiet some of the fans obsessed with acquiring a "big bat." The reality is that extreme power hitters are a rare breed these days, so the focus should be more on building a deep lineup from top to bottom.

The Indians seem crowded in right field with Tyler Holt, Ryan Raburn, Walters, etc. What is the probability that David Murphy stays out there as the starter?
-- Chris F., Youngstown, Ohio

Barring a trade, the 33-year-old Murphy projects to be Cleveland's main right fielder for 2015. He is signed for $6 million next year and has a team option for '16. The idea with Murphy was to have plus defense (advanced metrics show he had one of his worst seasons in the outfield) and a sound option against right-handed pitching (he turned in a slightly above-average .727 OPS). If healthy, Raburn and Murphy could provide a solid offensive platoon in right. That plan did not work out as hoped in '14, and the Indians will surely explore their alternatives this winter.

How much of a chance does Cleveland have at signing Jon Lester or any other big-name or semi-big-name starting pitchers this winter? -- Phil K., Ohio

The emergence of Corey Kluber as the rotation's leader, combined with Carlos Carrasco turning into a formidable starter in the second half, provided the Indians with a strong one-two punch atop the staff. I'd be shocked if Cleveland spent wildly on a top-tier free agent starter, though it's no secret that Francona and Lester have a strong history. It seems more likely that the Indians target a mid-rotation arm or a group of pitchers to compete for innings at the back of the starting staff.

In closing ...

Barring any moves regarding the rotation, what would be your starting five come Opening Day? -- Rex H., Cedar Rapids, Iowa

I'd probably open with the five-man staff that ended the season with the Indians. Kluber and Carrasco at the top, and Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer and T.J. House (in no particular order) filling out the final three spots. Zach McAllister (out of options) could open the year in the rotation, but the big righty showed down the stretch that he can be a capable relief option as well.

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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Indians Arizona Fall League overview

Top prospect Lindor works on supplementing outstanding defense at short

Indians Arizona Fall League overview

Players headed to the Arizona Fall League typically have about a month between the end of the Minor League season and Opening Day in the desert. It can be a chance to rest and recover from the long season before beginning anew in the AFL.

The break was a bit shorter for Francisco Lindor, the Indians' top prospect, whose season was extended as Triple-A Columbus reached the International League playoffs. Still, the time off was almost unbearable.

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"I went home for, I'll say, two weeks," Lindor said. "And after a week and a half, I was like, 'You know what, I've got to go out and play. I can't do this.' I've got to be playing. I'm very excited and happy I'm here."

Indians fans have been excitedly watching Lindor's progress since the club made him the eighth overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. The anticipation only increased this season, as Lindor was promoted to Columbus on July 21 and, 10 days later, the Indians dealt veteran shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera to the Nationals at the non-waiver Trade Deadline.

Lindor, ranked No. 4 on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list, said even he thought about the possibility of getting called up to the Major Leagues. But with Columbus in the playoff race, he was able to shut those thoughts out when he was playing.

"That's my dream, to be in the big leagues, to stay in the big leagues for a long time," Lindor said. "But once I was in the field, it was all about winning, it was all about me trying to get better."

Scouts regard Lindor as one of the best defenders in the Minor Leagues, and his glove work has helped the Puerto Rican native land a spot in the last three Futures Games on the World Roster. But Lindor is determined to prove he can impact the game offensively as well.

"I won't be a power hitter, but I can hit," Lindor said. "I'm going to get better. I'm going to improve myself. I'm going to be a good hitter."

In 126 games between Double-A Akron and Columbus, Lindor hit .276/.338/.389 with 11 home runs and 28 stolen bases. Just 20 years old, he was the youngest position player in the International League.

Lindor said facing the more experienced players of the upper levels of the Minor Leagues showed him what parts of his game he needs to improve upon. He said he wants to work on keeping his hands inside the ball at the plate, rather than trying to pull too many balls. He also wants to become a more efficient basestealer after getting thrown out 16 times this year.

"There's a lot of room to improve," Lindor said. "I'm working on it and having fun. You've got to have fun."

Indians hitters in the AFL
• Tony Wolters began his professional career as a shortstop. But by 2013, the Indians were facing an overabundance of middle infielders in their Minor League system and manager Terry Francona suggested Wolters switch to catching. He has adapted well to his new position and the Indians envision him as a potential super-utility player, capable of catching and playing both middle infield positions. Wolters is using the AFL as a chance to make up some of the time he lost due to a left knee injury that kept him out all of August.

• Before struggling this season at Double-A Akron, Jordan Smith had produced good results at every level, dating back to his college days at Division II St. Cloud State. Primarily a right fielder, he doesn't have the typical power profile for a corner outfielder. He makes up for it with a smooth swing and a good approach at the plate.

Indians pitchers in the AFL
• Right-hander Dylan Baker got off to a strong start to the 2014 season, throwing six perfect innings for Class A Advanced Carolina. He broke his ankle before he could make another start and was sidelined for three months. He has a quality fastball-slider combination and is working to improve his changeup. That development, as well as smoothing out his delivery, will determine whether he can remain as a starter or will ultimately move to the bullpen as some scouts predict.

• The Indians may have gotten a steal when they selected right-hander Louis Head in the 18th round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. He has pitched effectively out of the bullpen as a professional and, in the last year, seen his velocity tick up. His fastball now reaches 97 mph and his slider gives him a solid second offering. Head has some experience closing, but he profiles best as a middle reliever.

• The Angels drafted Nick Maronde in the third round in 2011 and, the next year, he became the fourth player in the Draft class to reach the Major Leagues, working in 12 games out of the bullpen. Though he returned to the big leagues in each of the last two seasons, he wasn't able to stick and he was eventually dealt to the Indians after being designated for assignment in July. In the Indians system, he has returned to starting, a role he filled at the outset of his professional career, but the left-hander is working out of the bullpen for Peoria.

• Used as a reliever throughout his career, right-hander Grant Sides' best weapon is his mid-90s fastball. Though his arm strength has always made him an intriguing player, his struggles with control have slowed his progress in the Minor Leagues. He's averaged more than five walks per nine innings over four seasons, a number he'll need to improve on to advance to the upper levels of the Indians' system.

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

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Diminishing power not just an Indians issue

Club seeking deep, productive lineup with home runs down across Majors

Diminishing power not just an Indians issue

CLEVELAND -- There has been a noticeable lack of thump in the heart of the Indians' lineup over the past several seasons. There have been fewer balls sent sailing to the Home Run Porch down the left-field line or clanking off the bleacher seats at Progressive Field.

When Cleveland's offense went stagnant in the second half this year, the annual cries for an impact bat to beef up the middle of the order became louder. It sounds so simple: go get a big bat, watch the power numbers soar and climb the standings. The only problem is that obtaining power is a growing problem throughout baseball.

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"It's not just the Indians. It's league-wide right now," manager Terry Francona said at the end of the regular season. "Teams are trying to figure out the adjustments that need to be made, because the power is down, but the strikeouts aren't. So, how you move forward is going to be really interesting."

There is no denying that the Indians' offense went too quiet down the stretch, hurting the team's chances to remain in the postseason hunt. There is also no getting around the fact that Cleveland did not make a serious run at slugger Nelson Cruz last winter and the club lost out on the international market in recent years in the bidding wars Jose Abreu and Yoenis Cespedes.

This offseason, Cruz, Victor Martinez and Cuban outfield prospect Yasmany Tomas project as three of the top power bats on the open market.

It is fair to point out that Cleveland had Carlos Santana (27 home runs), Yan Gomes (21) and Michael Brantley (20) -- each originally acquired via trade -- reach at least 20 long balls apiece in the 2014 season. That was tied for the second-most players on a team to have 20 or more homers in the Majors last year. The Indians were tied with the Orioles, Tigers and Nationals for the most players (three) with at least 20 homers and 70 RBIs.

What that shows is that the Indians' top three power threats were among the best trios in all of baseball this past year. Given that those three players are under control through at least 2016, and potentially longer in all three cases, Cleveland is more focused on improving the lineup as a whole. The way the Indians see things, one bat is unlikely to make a dramatic difference under baseball's current circumstances.

"Even in high-run scoring environments," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said, "you're looking for a long, deep lineup that you get a lot of guys that are capable of [solid run production]. What we've tried to do is, we want to have as deep a lineup as possible that's capable of scoring as many runs.

"When the run-scoring environment drops, then how you run the bases, how you play defense, the importance of doing the little things right, probably gets more magnified."

Here is the reality of the Major League offensive landscape:

• Including Santana, there were only 18 players in baseball this season to have at least 27 home runs. Only 11 players in the Majors reached at least 30 long balls. The latter figure marks the fewest players to hit 30 or more homers in a non-strike season since 1992, when only 10 accomplished the feat.

• There were 27 players with at least 25 home runs and 57 with at least 20 home runs in the Major Leagues in 2014. Both figures also represent the fewest in a non-strike season since 1992, when there were 20 batters with 25 or more homers and 37 with 20 or more homers.

• Overall, Major League teams combined for 19,761 runs and a .386 slugging percentage. Once again, each of those figures mark the lowest total in baseball in a non-strike season since 1992, when 17,341 runs were scored and teams combined for a .377 slugging percentage.

Considering that environment, having a player such as Brantley is valuable for Cleveland. Beyond his 20 home runs, he churned out 45 doubles, hit for a high average (.327), featured speed (23-for-24 in stolen-base attempts) and ended the year with 200 hits. That kind of versatile offensive player is ideal for the Indians, who hope to feature a balanced and versatile lineup from top to bottom.

Take the 2013 season, for example. The Indians had just one hitter (Nick Swisher) reach at least 20 home runs, but the team led the Majors with 10 players having at least 10 home runs (one player shy of tying a Major League record). That balance of power helped push the Indians to fifth in the American League and sixth overall in the Majors in runs scored.

This past season, the Indians were roughly league average in runs scored (669), home runs (142), on-base percentage (.317), slugging percentage (.389) and OPS (.706). Much of that can be attributed to players such as Michael Bourn, Jason Kipnis, David Murphy, Ryan Raburn and Swisher enduring injury-marred, inconsistent seasons.

The Indians are counting on strong comeback campaigns from that group in 2015. Beyond trying to strike that offensive balance, the Indians also hope to continue to feature the kind of strong pitching that helped keep them afloat in the playoff race deep into September. Francona made it sound as though strengthening the pitching staff this winter is a higher priority than landing a big bat.

"I think that's the easy [answer]. It's, 'Hey, go get a power bat.' OK," Francona said. "What we're really trying to do is see how many runs our pitching staff we think is going to give up and how many runs we're going to score offensively, and then where does that fit moving forward? Do we think that makes us a team that can contend?

"I can tell you from personal experience, I'd rather win 3-1 than 8-7, because it's a hard way to win consistently."

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's Smith hits walk-off double at Fall League

Pirates pitching prospects on point for Scottsdale before Peoria's late rally

Tribe's Smith hits walk-off double at Fall League

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Major Leagues' scintillating, unpredictable postseason is on hiatus, but scintillating, unpredictable baseball goes on.

The Arizona Fall League filled the void Saturday, with Peoria's 4-3, 11th-inning walk-off win over Scottsdale.

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Box score

Jordan Smith's RBI double with one out snapped the Javelinas' seven-game winless streak, a day after their slide was extended when Salt River rallied in the ninth for the tying run of what became a 3-3 deadlock at the AFL's 11-inning limit.

"It's good to be on the winning side of the comeback," said Smith, an outfielder in the Indians' farm system. "We've been struggling to win lately, so we were really glad to get this win."

The Javelinas followed the October script not only in walking off, but in how they engineered it. Before back-to-back doubles with one out in the 11th by Edward Salcedo and Smith won it, Kes Carter tied it with a solo homer with two outs in the ninth.

That's the same Kes Carter who had five homers in 481 plate appearances while splitting this season between the Rays' Class A Advanced A and Double-A levels.

"He definitely had a big day today," Smith said of Carter, the centerpiece of Peoria's two-run seventh, doubling for a run before scoring on Raul Mondesi's single. "When Kes hit that [double], it gave us a little boost, and we started getting a little confidence and we knew we had a good chance to win the game."

Smith had the last word, though, going opposite field on Colton Murray's 0-1 slider to chase home Salcedo, whose slide to beat left fielder Tyler Austin's throw triggered an overdue celebration.

"I was looking for something I could drive through the infield," Smith said. "When I saw [the pitch] was middle-away, I tried to hit it the other way. [Third baseman] Dante Bichette Jr. was there, and I saw him make a lunge at it. Once it got by him, I knew it was going to be a close play at the plate. It worked out for us, but it definitely was a close play."

Until turning around on the Javelinas' rally, the game had been a showcase of Pirates pitching prospects. Tyler Glasnow, Pittsburgh's No. 1, began it with his second straight start of three shutout innings and Adrian Sampson hurled a hitless sixth. In between, Angel Sanchez, an early August waiver pickup from the White Sox, blanked Peoria on a hit for two innings.

Josh Bell played behind Glasnow in Class A Advanced Bradenton's outfield last season and now is getting a closer look at the 6-foot-7 right-hander. In the AFL, Bell is exclusively playing first base, with the parent club focused on adding to his versatility.

"He's definitely chucking it," Bell said of Glasnow. "At first base, you definitely get a different look at the silly swings he gets out of people. But he's been dealing all year, now he's just doing it to different people."

Bell's only hit on Saturday was a sixth-inning double, followed by a Bichette single that drove him home and gave the Scorpions a 2-0 lead.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Inbox: When can Lindor be expected to join Tribe?

Beat reporter Jordan Bastian answers Indians fans' questions

Inbox: When can Lindor be expected to join Tribe?

What is a realistic timeframe for shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor? What happens with Jose Ramirez if he continues to play well? Any chance second baseman Jason Kipnis moves back to the outfield?
-- Adam S., Broken Arrow, Okla.

Barring an injury or unexpected trade, I would be absolutely stunned if we don't see Lindor in the big leagues with the Indians at some point during the 2015 season. I do not expect that to be on Opening Day. The job out of the gates would seem to fall to Ramirez, who played admirably at shortstop in the second half of this season.

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Defense was an issue all season for Cleveland, but the 22-year-old Ramirez helped shore things up some up the middle.

In his 498 2/3 innings at short, Ramirez turned in an 18.9 UZR/150 (Ultimate Zone Rating scaled to 150 games), which ranked first in the Majors among the 30 shortstops who played at least 450 innings at the position. Atlanta's defensive wiz, Andrelton Simmons, ranked second with an 18.4 UZR/150 in his 1,277 innings.

In the first half, Asdrubal Cabrera -- dealt to Washington prior to the July 31 Trade Deadline -- turned in a negative 10.8 UZR/150 and was hit with negative seven Defensive Runs Saved in his 820 2/3 innings at shortstop. Ramirez, on the other hand, was credited with four Defensive Runs Saved, even though he played roughly 60 percent of the number of innings logged by Cabrera.

Here is the point: Ramirez provided the Indians with a clear defensive upgrade and a sound option for shortstop for Opening Day 2015. Lindor is also considered an above-average defender, but the reality remains that he is only 20 years old (21 in November) and has just 38 games at the Triple-A level under his belt. He is playing in the Arizona Fall League to get further experience.

It's also worth noting that Lindor's signature plate discipline took a hit at Triple-A. At all other levels combined, the switch-hitter had a 1.23 strikeout-to-walk ratio. In his brief stint at Triple-A, Lindor struck out four times for every walk drawn. He appears poised to make an impact in the Majors, but it is easy to spot some areas still in need of refinement.

So, for now, Ramirez gives the Indians a good alternative until Lindor is deemed to be ready to join the big league club sometime next summer. If and when Lindor does come up, Ramirez's experience around the infield gives Cleveland a couple of options. He could rotate in as a utility man or get increased reps at third base. I don't see Kipnis moving away from second base anytime soon.

Given Lonnie Chisenhall's poor defense and drop in production in the second half, what do you see happening with him next year? Also, with how well Ramirez finished '14, combined with the addition of Zach Walters and presence of Lindor, do you see Mike Aviles still in a Cleveland uniform next year?
-- Bryant D., West Mansfield, Ohio

I've written that third base is one position that could potentially be upgraded this winter, and that is partially due to Chisenhall's sporadic play both in the batter's box and in the field. The other reason is simply that the contracts in place for 2015 leave little room around the diamond for impactful external additions. Trades could create room elsewhere, but third is certainly a vulnerable spot.

Chisenhall thrived early in the season when manager Terry Francona used him as a part-time player, picking opportunistic times to put the third baseman in the starting lineup. Chisenhall's incredible showing at the plate understandably earned him the full-time job, but his second-half fade raised the question of whether he should return to a platoon-type role to maximize production.

I'm sure the Indians will weigh that issue over the winter months, while examining what alternatives (or platoon partners) might exist via trade or free agency. Then again, maybe Chisenhall's solid overall showing with the bat will earn him another chance as the starting third baseman. That would not surprise me in the least, considering he is only 26 years old and had a great developmental season.

If Lindor is not in the plans for Opening Day, it might make sense to exercise Aviles' $3.5 million team option. Having a veteran utility player capable of handling shortstop (as well as multiple outfield and infield spots) is valuable. There is also the chance that Cleveland tries to groom Walters for that kind of versatile role, hoping he develops into a Ben Zobrist-type player for the Tribe.

Josh Tomlin is due for arbitration again this offseason. I don't know what kind of Minor League options he has left, but rather than renegotiating his contract, do you think the Indians might part ways with him given how inconsistent he's been?
--Bryant D., West Mansfield, Ohio

On the surface, yes, Tomlin looks like a non-tender candidate, given his injury history and inconsistency. But he does have Minor League options remaining and Cleveland is thin on the depth chart behind its first five starters. One more year removed from Tommy John elbow surgery, Tomlin could work out as a starter this winter and be ready for three possibilities: earning a spot in the big league rotation, transitioning back to a bullpen role or being optioned to Triple-A and providing depth. He earned $800,000 last year, so his salary will surely climb north of $1 million. It's not a bad value for a starting pitcher with options and experience.

I'm sure this is going to sound crazy, but do you think there is any chance that the Indians try to sign Justin Masterson again? After his bad contract year, his value must have gone down. Don't you think it would be worth a risk?
-- Daniel Z., Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio

I don't think it sounds crazy. Improbable, maybe, but not crazy. Masterson's value would probably need to have come way down for that to happen. There is certainly familiarity with Francona, and pitching coach Mickey Callaway had success with the sinkerballer in 2013, but it seems an unlikely scenario. The peaks of Masterson's career have been strong enough where his camp will probably seek a multiyear deal, and there might be a team willing to take the risk. Look no further than Scott Kazmir one year ago, though the lefty was coming off a strong second half in '13 when he cashed in. Given Masterson's struggles, injury issues and lost velocity, I just don't see Cleveland going down that road.

Do the Indians make an attempt to trade away Nick Swisher's and/or Michael Bourn's contract this winter?
-- Steve W., Perrysburg, Ohio

Swisher is 33 years old, coming off surgery on both knees, just endured the worst season of his career (.608 OPS in only 97 games) and is owed $30 million over the next two seasons. Bourn, 31, dealt with hamstring issues throughout 2014, stole only 10 bases, played in just 106 games and is owed $27.5 million for the 2015-16 seasons. You'd better believe the Indians would entertain trade offers for either player. But I'm not so sure any teams will be getting in line to chat about it.

As part of their renovations, have the Indians considered moving the struggling Bob Feller Museum in Van Meter, Iowa, to Progressive Field?
-- Jacob H., Strongsville, Ohio

What I can tell you is that the Indians have been working with the Bob Feller Museum this year on a plan to help in some capacity. That could mean moving at least a portion of the museum's artifacts to Cleveland. When more details are available on the progress of that effort, I will be sure to pass them along.

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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MLB.com Columnist

Anthony Castrovince

D-backs off the table, Alomar Jr. may still get a shot

Indians coach also a candidate for Twins' managerial opening

D-backs off the table, Alomar Jr. may still get a shot

The industry expectation is that, one of these days, Sandy Alomar Jr. will get his shot at a full-time managerial gig. But that chance won't be with the Arizona D-backs in 2015.

Arizona has picked former A's bench coach Chip Hale to replace Kirk Gibson, who was dismissed shortly before the end of the '14 season. Alomar had been one of the nine candidates named for the job, and he interviewed with the club last week.

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FoxSports.com reported last week that Alomar is among the candidates being considered the Minnesota Twins' vacancy. The Twins dismissed longtime skipper Ron Gardenhire at season's end. Torey Lovullo, who spent nine seasons as a manager in the Indians' farm system from 2002-10, is also a candidate for that job.

Alomar is no stranger to the managerial interview process, having been considered for the Blue Jays' opening after 2010 and the Cubs and Red Sox jobs after '11. The Indians installed him as their interim skipper when they removed Manny Acta from the job in September 2012, and the young players on that club raved about working for him. But Cleveland could not pass on an opportunity to hire Terry Francona that October, and Alomar has stayed on board as a member of Francona's coaching staff, first as a bench coach in 2013, then as a first-base coach this past season.

The 48-year-old Alomar has one year remaining on his contract with the Indians. He was a six-time All-Star catcher for the Tribe in his playing career, and his coaching career began with his stint as a catching instructor for the Mets.

Indians bullpen coach Kevin Cash, who joined Francona's staff in 2013, is among the candidates for the Rangers' job, with interim Texas skipper Tim Bogar -- another former Minor League manager for the Tribe -- considered the front-runner.

Francona has said he hopes to keep his entire coaching staff together for '15, but he won't stand in the way of any of his coaches getting a Major League managerial opportunity.

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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Indians set to host Tribe Fest Jan. 24-25

The Indians will host this year's Tribe Fest from Jan. 24-25 at Progressive Field, the team announced Tuesday.

The third annual event, presented by KeyBank, will feature Indians players, manager Terry Francona and Tribe alumni. Player autographs, question-and-answer sessions and other fan-friendly activities will all be a part of the event.

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Tickets for the general public go on sale November 25. More details, including ticket prices, guaranteed autograph tickets and other information will be made available as the date nears.

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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Swisher named Bob Feller Act of Valor Award winner

First baseman joins Hall of Fame manager Lasorda, Chief Petty Officer Thompson

Swisher named Bob Feller Act of Valor Award winner

CLEVELAND -- Bob Feller accomplished a long list of feats while wearing an Indians jersey, but donning a uniform for the United States Navy brought the late pitcher the most pride. Feller's legacy both on and off the field lives on through a unique and fitting award that bears his name.

The Bob Feller Act of Valor Award was established last year and is meant to honor three men who possess the values, integrity and dedication to serving the United States that Feller displayed. On Wednesday, Indians first baseman Nick Swisher, Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda and Senior Chief Petty Officer Carl Thompson of the U.S. Navy were revealed as the 2014 recipients of the accolade.

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"The first thing that comes to mind is honor and pride," Swisher said in a release. "For me, just to be in the same breath as a man like Bob Feller, I could not be more honored to be in this position. I could not be more grateful to receive this award, something that is near and dear to my heart."

Author Peter Fertig created the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award with the support of the U.S. Navy, the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial, the Indians, the National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association and Mrs. Anne Feller. The annual award honors one member of baseball's Hall of Fame, one current Major League player and a U.S. Navy Petty Officer.

This year's winners will receive their awards in a ceremony from 6-9 p.m. ET on Nov. 5 at the United States Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C. The event will feature a group of baseball luminaries and Navy leadership, including Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Michael Stevens.

Swisher, whose grandfather served in the U.S. military during the Korean War, supports the Wounded Warriors Program and assists Philips Norelco's charitable activities on Operation Homefront. Swisher and his wife, JoAnna Garcia, have also taken part in USO tours to Afghanistan to visit with troops.

"To have the honor and privilege to go over there was amazing," Swisher said in July, when he was nominated for the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award. "It's a trip I'll never forget and something I was proud to say that I did."

Lasorda -- the longtime manager of the Dodgers -- put his professional playing career on hold from 1945-47 to serve in the United States Army. During that time, Lasorda was stationed at Fort Meade, Md. To date, Lasorda has visited more than 40 U.S. military installations across the world, and he took part in a 2009 USO Goodwill tour for troops in Iraq. This past year, Lasorda has participated in Navy general retirement ceremonies and in the swearing-in of over 1,500 new U.S. troops.

"It is a privilege and an honor to receive the Bob Feller Act of Valor Award," Lasorda said in a release. "I have the highest respect and admiration for the men and women who serve in the United States Navy, as well as the other branches of the military. I loved Bob Feller and am so grateful to receive an award that bears his name."

Senior Chief Thompson is held in the highest regard by his leaders, peers and shipmates. Thompson is currently serving as the Calibration Laboratory Leading Chief Petty Officer, supporting 18 departments, the USS George Washington Strike Group and 71 Carrier Air Wing FIVE aircraft. He also completed a voluntary assignment to Djibouti, Africa, where he worked as Command Security Manager for the Combined Joint Task Force, Horn of Africa.

"This is a tremendous honor and such a humbling experience for me," Thompson said in a statement. "I am overwhelmed and extremely excited at the same time. I would have never dreamed that I would receive an award for the way I live my life, but I am extremely grateful for my parents and all those teachers, mentors, and community leaders along the way who instilled in me the morals and ethics that I live my life by."

Beyond Swisher, other players nominated this season included Adam LaRoche of the Nationals, Jonathan Lucroy of the Brewers, Charlie Morton of the Pirates, Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox and Brad Ziegler of the D-backs. For the current players category, Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander took home the first Bob Feller Act of Valor Award last year.

Feller enlisted in the Navy days after the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 and went on to serve on six missions in both the Pacific and North Atlantic, earning the rank of Chief Petty Officer, six campaign ribbons and eight battle stars. After Feller's passing in December 2010, Fertig pitched the idea for the award to the pitcher's widow, Anne, and eventually the concept became reality.

"It is truly inspiring to watch these players within Major League Baseball honor our U.S. Military and those who serve proudly today," Fertig said in a statement. "Bob Feller led his generation onto the field of battle and away from the baseball diamond for a more significant reason. He was not alone; Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Warren Spahn, Yogi Berra, Hank Greenberg, Jackie Robinson, Tommy Lasorda and millions of other regular citizens joined him.

"These celebrated Americans from our past understood the importance of keeping our world safe from tyranny. The legacy of Bob Feller and the greatest generation are embodied throughout these players and their respective clubs for honoring those who serve this great nation, and for this we are forever grateful."

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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Feller statue temporarily moved as part of renovation

Indians president Shapiro 'amazed' by pace of demolition

Feller statue temporarily moved as part of renovation

CLEVELAND -- The Bob Feller statue took a ride on East Ninth Street earlier this week. The iconic Indians pitcher's famously frozen delivery -- right hand low, left leg kicked high -- was hoisted by a front-end loader at Progressive Field and temporarily transported down the block.

The odd image of Feller's rendering rolling down the road was a dramatic reminder of the sweeping changes currently taking place at Cleveland's home ballpark. Hundreds of stadium seats have been removed, sections of the center-field backdrop have been demolished and the Tribe's planned overhaul is officially a reality.

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"We've had a mixture of emotions," Indians president Mark Shapiro said on Wednesday. "One, you're amazed at the pace at which the demolition is occurring. You can kind of start to envision the plans we've been looking at for a long period of time. That's coupled with a sense of urgency, because we know the winter weather is coming and we'd better be moving that fast."

When Indians fans pour through the Progressive Field gates -- including a completely reimagined Gate C in center field -- for Opening Day next season, the project is expected to be completed. That has given workers a daunting challenge in light of the upredictable nature of Cleveland's winter months, so no time was wasted. On Sept. 29, one day after the Indians' season ended, the demolition began.

This week, crews began demolishing the Batter's Eye Bar and Market Pavilion in center field, and began the removal of the Bud Patio in the right-field corner. Seats from the upper and lower deck have been removed to allow for more social spaces and improved concession and concourse amenities.

Roughly 200 seats are for sale at the Indians Team Shop at the ballpark for $600 a pair.

Both the home and visitors' bullpens (surrounded by fan seating) will now be located in center, where Gate C will be a more wide-open space to allow for a more dramatic view of downtown from inside the ballpark. In the right-field corner, the Bud Patio will be replaced by a two-story, climate-controlled bar. The Indians will also be upgrading the Kids Clubhouse down the right-field line to a two-story area with a long list of new features.

The Feller statue will eventually be returned to the revitalized Gate C entrance, and the Indians plan on unveiling a Larry Doby statue to go along with the Jim Thome statue that was installed this past season.

Shapiro was in Goodyear, Ariz., for organization meetings for the past few days, but he received photos on the latest developments with the renovation project.

"It's at a point now where every day, there's some pretty marked progress," Shapiro said. "I think Gate C is going to be incredibly visible. It will be a new gateway to the city and really a good connection to all the energy that's occurring on East Ninth and downtown. That's one thing I'm looking forward to seeing.

"I'm excited to see the new bar and how the younger Cleveland growing [demographic] interacts with that. I can't wait to see the two-story Kids Clubhouse, because I think it's going to one of the most unique ones of its kind in all of professional sports. It's hard to single one thing out."

Shapiro said the Indians did extensive surveys and held focus groups with fans to get external input on the kinds of amenities should be added. The team also studied a number of ballparks, arenas and entertainment venues to help get a sense of trends and ideas that other groups have brought to fruition.

In the end, Shapiro said the biggest goal for the Indians is to have something to offer for each fan and family that walk through the Progressive Field gates.

"It's important to provide very targeted experiences for each demo," Shapiro said, "that it not be a one-size-fits-all experience. It needs to be very tailored and customized. And it also needs to be compelling. The fact is that the majority of our fans are coming from suburbs that are a good distance away.

"They're walking away from a home entertainment experience that, from our ratings, you can see they're very engaged in. So we've got to provide a compelling reason to come down to the ballpark."

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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Inbox: How is the Tribe looking this offseason?

Beat reporter Jordan Bastian answers questions from Indians fans

Inbox: How is the Tribe looking this offseason?

How do you judge the Tribe's offseason positioning this year compared to last? Are they in a better or worse position?
-- Joe B., Cleveland

That is a good question -- one that Indians general manager Chris Antonetti addressed during his season-end sit-down. Despite the team winning seven fewer games this season compared to 2013, Antonetti feels that Cleveland is in a better position heading into this offseason.

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"At the moment, we're more disappointed, because at this time last year we still had games in front of us," Antonetti said. "But as we start to transition to the offseason, we have virtually the entirety of our roster in place for next year. Again, there's no complacency, we want to improve on that, but that's a great position of strength going into the offseason. Last year, we had more questions going into the offseason than we do right now."

I agree to a certain extent.

Pitching was the Indians' strength this year, especially in the second half. After the All-Star break, the rotation led the American League with a 2.95 ERA, 433 strikeouts and a 4.37 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The starting five of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, Danny Salazar, Trevor Bauer and T.J. House combined for 60 of the 68 starts in that time period.

Where I believe Antonetti is right is in that those five pitchers all project to be in the fold next season, and only Carrasco will be entering his arbitration years. Potentially, that is a lot of value at a low cost for several seasons. Cleveland had similarly strong starting pitching in the second half of 2013, but two key starters (Ubaldo Jimenez and Scott Kazmir) took their innings to the free-agent market.

Cleveland's solid bullpen can essentially return intact for 2015, too. That is a lot of good pitching, though the Indians would be wise to bolster the depth chart (rotation and bullpen) with some mid-tier or non-roster signings this winter.

The Indians are also in a position to retain their entire nine-man lineup. That is where I disagree slightly with Antonetti's notion. With so many contracts in place, Cleveland is limited in where and how it can upgrade an offense that went stagnant in the second half. Barring trades, third base and right field appear to be the most logical spots to make an upgrade. Without any major additions, the Indians will be asking for some strong bounce-back seasons from a few players.

The Indians won 85 games with the worst defense (116 errors) in baseball, John Axford unsuccessfully closing early in the year, Jason Kipnis hitting .240, Nick Swisher injured and so on. So many things went wrong, but they still won more often than they lost. Is it so farfetched to think the Indians could come in to Spring Training with the same team they signed off with and win five to seven more games?
-- Dave B., Lakewood, Ohio

The simple answer seems to be, "Yes." In the spring, if you rattled off all the things that would go wrong, I probably would have guessed Cleveland would finish in fourth or fifth place in the division. The Indians overcame a lot, and that gives hope for 2015. I think the roster in place can indeed win more than 85 games if the group stays healthy and performs to expectations. Then again, that might be asking a lot. Have you ever seen a season in which everything went according to plan?

-- How much money does the Tribe have to spend this winter?
Tyler M. (via Twitter)

What we know is that the Indians have roughly $54 million tied up in nine contracts for 2015 and the team needs to make a decision on Mike Aviles' $3.5 million team option (or $250,000 buyout). Add in the retained players at the league minimum, plus the estimated $12 million to $15 million in arbitration costs, and Cleveland projects to have a payroll around $72 million to $75 million. The Indians have operated in the $80 million to $85 million range for the past few years, so there is some flexibility. Where things get complicated is in the number of contracts in place. The trade market might be more opportunistic for the Indians this winter.

-- If the Indians keep the same personnel and don't add any big names this offseason, what should they do differently next year in order to make the postseason?
Jeff D., Canton, Ohio

Cleaning up the defense has to be the top priority. Consider the difference in Defensive Runs Saved by the Royals (plus 40) compared to the Indians (minus 75). Kansas City finished just four games ahead of Cleveland in the standings and made the playoffs. Next, the Indians absolutely need full, healthy, productive seasons from Kipnis, Swisher and Michael Bourn. You can't predict injuries, but the balance of rest and training in the winter can do wonders for that trio.

-- Do you think the Indians will go for Victor Martinez this offseason?
Ryan O. (via Twitter)

Cleveland appears to have its first baseman in Carlos Santana and the designated-hitter role, as a result, would fall to Swisher. On top of that, Martinez is in position to take advantage of an incredible season with the last lucrative, multiyear contract of his career. I could see him finishing his career in Cleveland, but I just do not see him winding up in a Tribe uniform for 2015.

-- What's the chance that Sandy Alomar Jr. gets the D-backs' managerial job?
Alex K., Granville, Ohio

As of this writing, Alomar (Cleveland's first-base coach) is one of 11 known candidates for Arizona's managerial opening. Reports have indicated that the D-backs might prefer to go with someone who already has managing experience. Alomar managed six games at the end of the 2012 season, but the rest of his post-playing career is limited to coaching. Alomar has been considered an up-and-coming manager for several seasons now, but his chances would seem to decrease if the D-backs are not willing to roll the dice on a less-experienced candidate.

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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Stars of tomorrow ready to shine as '14 AFL season begins

Stars of tomorrow ready to shine as '14 AFL season begins

Over its 23-year history, the Arizona Fall League has developed a reputation as a finishing school for baseball's top prospects. This year, once again, many of the game's best young players will gather in the desert, hoping to prove themselves in the same league that helped catapult Derek Jeter, Dustin Pedroia and Mike Trout to stardom.

When the AFL opens play Tuesday, the concentration of talent will again be readily apparent. Two of the three Opening Day games feature premium pitching matchups, and the third game is highlighted by two of the best shortstops in the Minor Leagues.

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The action begins at 3:35 p.m. ET when Peoria and right-hander Kyle Zimmer, the Royals' No. 2 prospect, visits Surprise and right-hander Taijuan Walker, whose last start was a complete game for the Mariners in the midst of their pennant race.

At the same time Tuesday afternoon, Glendale and shortstop Corey Seager, the Dodgers' No. 1 prospect, will host Mesa and shortstop Addison Russell, the Cubs' No. 2 prospect. The day ends with another pitchers' duel, as right-hander Tyler Glasnow, the Pirates' No. 1 prospect, will take the mound for Scottsdale at 9:35 p.m. ET at Salt River, facing right-hander Archie Bradley, the D-backs' No. 1 prospect.

Games with that level of talent are commonplace in the AFL, where 23 players ranked on MLBPipeline.com's Top 100 Prospects list will play this season.

For the second year in a row, Byron Buxton, baseball's top ranked prospect, is among the top prospects playing in the desert this fall. Last year, the Twins' No. 1 prospect hit .212/.288/.404 in 12 games as a 19-year-old for Glendale. This year, he will be playing for Salt River as he tries to make up for lost time after missing most of the regular season due to injuries.

Buxton played in just 31 games during the regular season. A wrist injury he suffered during Spring Training delayed his start to the season and continued to hamper him throughout the first half with Class A Advanced Fort Myers. Then, in his first game after being promoted to Double-A New Britain in August, he suffered a concussion in a harrowing outfield collision and was sidelined for the final three weeks of the season.

Now healthy again, Buxton will be one of the most-watched players in the AFL. But his is far from the only storyline to watch over the next six weeks.

Making up for lost time
Like Buxton, several other players are headed to Arizona to make up for time they lost to injury during the regular season. Others who are taking advantage of the extra developmental time include outfielder Jesse Winker, the Reds' No. 2 prospect, and shortstop Tim Anderson, the White Sox's No. 2 prospect.

Many of the starting pitchers in the AFL are there because injuries prevented them from reaching their innings caps during the regular season. Bradley, Glasnow, Zimmer and Walker all spent part of this season on the disabled list, as did right-handers C.J. Edwards, the Cubs' No. 5 prospect, and Roberto Osuna, the Blue Jays' No. 5 prospect.

Recent Draft picks
Last year, just four months after he was selected second overall in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, the Cubs sent third baseman Kris Bryant to the AFL. He hit .364/.457/.727 with six home runs in 20 games. He was named MVP and helped Mesa to the league championship game. That performance helped serve as a springboard for his historic '14 season, when he hit 43 home runs and reached Triple-A.

It is unlikely any player will be able to repeat Bryant's spectacular performance this season. But three members of the '14 Draft class will play in the AFL, led by shortstop Trea Turner, the Padres' No. 5 prospect. He was selected 13th overall in June and hit .323/.406/.448 with five home runs and 23 stolen bases in 69 games between short-season Eugene and Class A Fort Wayne.

In addition to the small group of '14 draftees, several members of the '13 Draft class will play in the AFL. Right-hander Mark Appel, the first overall pick last year, headlines the group. The Astros' No. 2 prospect had a rocky start to his first full professional season, but pitched much better after his promotion to Double-A Corpus Christi in July. He will try to build on that progress while pitching with Salt River this fall, where he joins Bradley and Buxton to form one of the most star-studded rosters in the league.

Pace of play
Major League Baseball announced last week a set of experimental rules designed to speed up the pace of play would be used in the AFL this year.

• A hitter must keep one foot inside the batter's box throughout his plate appearance, unless one of a few exceptions, such as a foul ball, occurs.

• Intentional walks will be called for by the manager and the batter will automatically take first base.

• There will be a maximum break of two minutes, five seconds between innings, with hitters required to be in the batter's box by the one-minute, 45-second mark. If either team doesn't comply, a ball or strike will be assessed accordingly.

• There will be a maximum of two minutes, 30 seconds allowed for pitching changes, including those that occur during an inning break. A ball will be called if a team takes too long.

• Each team will be permitted three "timeout" conferences covering any meeting involving pitchers and catchers, managers, coaches and batters. Timeouts during pitching changes and those that result from an injury or other emergency will not be counted toward the limit. Additionally, at Salt River home games, a 20-second pitch clock will be used. Those games will also include instant replay, as MLB continues to study potential modifications to the review system.

The experimental pace of play initiatives continue the AFL's tradition of being a testing lab for MLB's potential rule changes. Last year, the instant replay system was debuted in the AFL.

Defensive moves
Position changes often happen in a less-competitive environment than the AFL, but the league gives players who are moving around the diamond another chance to get experience.

This year, Josh Bell, the Pirates' No. 3 prospect, will be the most prominent player learning a new position. He has exclusively played the outfield in the Minor Leagues, but the Pirates already have a star-studded trio of young outfielders in the big leagues. So, this fall, Bell will try out first base, where he began taking ground balls during the regular season.

Although Peter O'Brien, the D-backs' No. 7 prospect, won't be changing positions when he catches for Salt River this fall, his progress defensively will be closely watched by evaluators. The 24-year old was a catcher in college, but has played four positions since the Yankees drafted him in the second round in '12.

The D-backs acquired O'Brien at the non-waiver Trade Deadline in exchange for Martin Prado, but injuries limited him to four games with his new club. The D-backs are sending him to the AFL as a catcher, and how he performs behind the plate over the next six weeks could inform his ultimate defensive home.

No matter where O'Brien ends up defensively, his offensive prowess gives him a chance to reach the Major Leagues. He hit 34 home runs in 106 games this season, ranking fifth among Minor Leaguers.

MLB.com's Top Prospects in AFL
1. Byron Buxton, OF, Twins
4. Francisco Lindor, SS, Indians
5. Addison Russell, SS, Cubs
9. Archie Bradley, RHP, D-backs
13. Corey Seager, SS, Dodgers
16. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pirates
29. Josh Bell, 1B, Pirates
38. Raul Mondesi, SS, Royals
40. Jesse Winker, OF, Reds
41. Mark Appel, RHP, Astros
47. Kyle Zimmer, RHP, Royals
49. D.J. Peterson, 3B, Mariners
53. C.J. Edwards, RHP, Cubs
60. Brandon Nimmo, OF, Mets
71. Hunter Renfroe, OF, Padres
82. Tim Anderson, SS, White Sox
84. Nick Williams, OF, Rangers
85. Daniel Robertson, SS, A's
86. Hunter Dozier, 3B, Royals
87. Miguel Almonte, RHP, Royals
88. Dalton Pompey, OF, Blue Jays
96. Trea Turner, SS, Padres
98. Matt Olson, 1B, A's

Teddy Cahill is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @tedcahill. 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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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'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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