Kluber tabbed as Indians' Opening Day starter

Right-hander will face Astros on April 6 at Minute Maid Park

Kluber tabbed as Indians' Opening Day starter

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- There has hardly been a lot of suspense surrounding the Indians' pick for their Opening Day starter this season. After winning the American League Cy Young Award in 2014, Corey Kluber was the unquestioned choice for that honorary role.

As a matter of formality, manager Terry Francona made things official on Monday.

"I didn't think there was much need for an announcement," Francona said.

No, Kluber starting on Opening Day was a given.

Kluber is scheduled to take the ball when the Tribe opens the season on April 6 with a 7:10 p.m. ET tilt against the Astros at Minute Maid Park. When he does, Kluber will become the 57th Opening Day starter in the long, storied history of the Indians franchise. Hall of Famer Bob Feller holds the club record with seven career Opening Day nods.

Kluber looks to build off 2014

Justin Masterson -- now with the Red Sox -- had started each of the Indians' past three Opening Day games.

While Kluber felt honored to be officially tabbed as Cleveland's rotation leader, the pitcher downplayed the significance of the season's first contest.

"I'll be looking forward to it," Kluber said. "I think the build up to Opening Day is the fun stuff, the nice stuff. But, once the game starts, it's really just another one of 162. I don't think you can place more importance on that game, or the last game of the season. They all count the same."

Kluber discusses the 2015 season

Last season, the 28-year-old Kluber enjoyed an incredible breakout campaign, going 18-9 with a 2.44 ERA and 269 strikeouts in 235 2/3 innings. He edged Seattle's Felix Hernandez in balloting for the AL Cy Young Award, joining Cliff Lee (2008), CC Sabathia (2007) and Gaylord Perry (1972) as the Indians' recipients of the annual accolade.

"That was not smoke and mirrors," Francona said of Kluber's 2014 season. "That was a kid figuring it out. He's good. I don't think it's important to us whether a guy is referred to as a 'star.' I think we try to treat all our guys with respect, but I do think that when he has the ball, we feel like we're going to win."

More important to Kluber than his personal success is the overall production of Cleveland's pitching staff, which boasted the best rotation ERA (2.95) in the AL in the second half. With the bulk of the second-half staff projected to begin the season in the Majors, Kluber is expecting the pitchers to pick up where they left off down the stretch.

"That the second half," Kluber said, "definitely showed what our staff, as a whole -- not just the rotation, but the bullpen, too -- what we're capable of when we pitch well. Now, it's a matter of doing it for an entire year, and kind of bucking that trend of starting out slow and picking it up after the break. We need to start out the way that we finished last 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.