Kluber gets Francona's vote for AL Cy Young

Kluber gets Francona's vote for AL Cy Young

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quote to note

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

Smoke signals

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

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

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

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