Ace Kluber notches 3rd straight 200-inning season

Righty proving elite, reliable while setting goal to make every start

Ace Kluber notches 3rd straight 200-inning season

CLEVELAND -- The Indians' faith in ace Corey Kluber has extended beyond the expectations of what he will provide every five days. It has reached the point where Cleveland now knows what to expect from its rotation leader every year.

With his seven-inning performance against the Tigers on Friday night, Kluber eclipsed the 200-inning plateau for the third straight year. He became the first Indians pitcher to achieve that feat of durability in a decade. Jake Westbrook was the last Tribe pitcher to have three straight years of 200 innings, doing so from 2004-06.

"He's proven to not only himself, but to the league," Indians manager Terry Francona said, "that he can go out there every five days, year after year after year, and still be good. And that's hard to do. I think that's what's turned him into an elite pitcher, in my opinion. Doing it once is pretty awesome. But doing it time after time is really tough."

Kluber is the first Indians pitcher to have at least 200 innings and 200 strikeouts in three consecutive years since 1972-74, when Gaylord Perry accomplished the feat.

Over the past few years, Kluber has grown accustomed to hearing his name alongside Cleveland greats when it comes to strikeout achievements. The right-hander takes more pride in punching the clock consistently and chewing up innings. Every season, Kluber makes it his goal to do everything possible to make every single start, which has led to the high innings totals.

This season, Kluber is 17-9 with a 3.12 ERA through 30 starts, in which he has piled up 215 strikeouts in 204 2/3 innings. As the American League Central-leading Indians continue to march toward their first division crown since 2007, Kluber potentially has three more starts remaining in the regular season.

"I want to stay healthy and effective enough to make every start," Kluber said. "I think, for the most part, if you're able to do that and you're pitching well, I think the 200 innings should probably follow suit with that. It's one of those things where you're not specifically trying to reach 200 innings, but it's a byproduct of trying to make every start and stay healthy and be effective."

Over the past four years, Kluber has averaged 202 innings per season, and that includes the 147 1/3 innings he posted in 2013. During '14, when Kuber enjoyed a breakout campaign that netted him the AL Cy Young Award, he began the learning process of how to handle a heavy workload. Now, the righty has developed a sound five-day routine with room for flexibility.

"You learn that there's times where you need to back off a litle bit," Kluber said. "It's not only doing it for your next start, but hopefully it has benefits later on down the road, too."

Kluber's approach this year has put him in position to possibly be the Indians' first two-time Cy Young winner.

The pitcher said he is happy the spotlight is not just on him, though.

"For me and our situation," Kluber said, "it's really just going out there and trying to win, especially a game like last night, when [the Tigers] are the ones who are right behind us. These are big games, so obviously, that takes all the precedent over any individual stuff."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.