Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 28

Baseball takes little time off in between seasons, so neither can we. Follow along at Did the Tribe Win Last Night as we count down to March 26, when the Cleveland Indians host the Detroit Tigers for game one of the 2020 season. – BT

Countdown to Opening Day – 28 days

If the Cleveland Indians handle Corey Kluber’s vacated number 28 (after trading him to Texas in the offseason) in the same manner as they did with Michael Brantley’s 23 last year, it will go unused in the coming 2020 campaign.

Kluber’s memorable Indians’ career came to a disappointing end with an injury-shortened 2019 season, just two years removed from the second Cy Young Award of his career and a season after leading the American League with 215 innings pitched and posting 20 wins for the first time in his third consecutive All-Star season.

Something seemed off about the 32-year-old from the early moments of spring training, though. He made just three appearances and was tagged for ten runs in 12 2/3 innings, allowing 16 hits (two homers) and a .320 batting average against. Spring is hardly the best time to access pitchers by the numbers, but there were some that were concerned as they carried over into the regular season.

Kluber – Mark Brown/Getty Images

He handled his first official start of the year well, allowing a pair of runs in a quality seven innings of work against Minnesota on March 28 as the Tribe dropped a 2-0 contest against the Twins. He allowed just four hits and struck out five with an economical 79 pitches lobbed in those seven innings. The encouraging first start was quickly forgotten, however, as he lasted just one out into the fourth in his second start, giving up six runs (four earned) on eight hits with an uncharacteristic three walks and just four strikeouts in a loss to the Chicago White Sox in his home debut.

He got back on track in game three, working a second quality start while allowing two runs (one earned) in six innings with eight strikeouts against the Detroit Tigers on April 9, but he was lit up in a discouraging effort his next time out as he got the hook after just two and two-thirds innings after giving up six runs on six hits (including a pair of home runs) while walking five Royals in a 9-8 loss to Kansas City.

Kluber earned his second win of the season in what proved to be the final home start of his Indians career on April 20 in game one of a doubleheader with the Atlanta Braves. He made 109 pitches over seven innings, giving up four runs on five hits with two walks, two homers allowed for the second straight start, and eight strikeouts. He survived five innings in a no-decision against Houston on April 26, giving up three runs on six hits with three walks and six strikeouts.

With a full month of action in the books, Kluber was just 2-2 with a 5.81 ERA and a 1.65 WHIP, hardly his usual level of production, but nothing that could not be overcome over the course of the remainder of the season. Unfortunately for him and his Indians teammates, his season lasted just four and two-thirds more innings. With the Indians on the road in Miami, he allowed three first inning singles to put the Marlins up early. After working a 1-2-3 second, his batterymate Roberto Perez tied the game with a solo homer. Kluber worked around a two-out single in the third, but the Marlins used three straight two-out hits in the fourth to take a 3-1 lead. Kluber’s first pitch of the fifth plunked the Marlins’ leadoff man, but a 3-2 double play grounder put the Tribe ace in position to get out of the inning unscatched. Instead, his next pitch to Brian Anderson was lined off of his right arm.

Kluber was diagnosed with a broken right ulna and was placed on the injured list retroactive to May 2. The arm healed up well enough to start a rehab assignment in the minors on August 8, but after three appearances between Akron and Columbus, he was shelved with a strained left oblique that cost him the rest of a 2019 slate that paid him $17 million.

Having already dealt Trevor Bauer for reasons in part motivated by finances during the year, it was no surprise that Kluber’s name was going to come up in trade rumors for a second straight season. The Indians exercised their club option for $17.5 million for the 2020 season, but following the Winter Meetings in December, the Cleveland front office found a match in Texas, sending him back to his former home state with cash considerations for outfielder Delino DeShields and young reliever Emmanuel Clase.

Kluber will bring with him to Texas a 98-58 career record over 208 ball games with a 3.16 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP while a member of the Cleveland Indians.

A late bloomer to some extent, the Indians will hope that the decision to move on from Kluber’s contract will not prove costly from a production standpoint. Set to turn 34 on April 10, Kluber has more days behind him than in front of him at this point and he was owed potentially $35.5 million over the final two years of his deal (at least $18.5 million if his 2021 team option was declined). With noticeable down ticks in velocity and control and a slew of young arms ready for an opportunity at the top levels of the Indians’ farm system, the Kluber deal makes some sense, even if the return haul is substantially less than it may have been the previous winter when he and Bauer were both subject to trade banter. The Indians are gambling that his best years are behind him now and that the younger, cheaper arms can provide comparable results on the mound for the city of Cleveland.

Other notable 28s in Tribe history (38 in total): Charlie Jamieson (1931-32), Gene Bearden (1948), Pedro Ramos (1962), Tommie Agee (1964), Vada Pinson (1970-71), Jackie Brown (1975), Rick Manning (1975-81), Bert Blyleven (1981-85), Cory Snyder (1986-90), Derek Lilliquist (1992-94), Russell Branyan (2002), Ben Broussard (2002-03).

Photo: Mark Brown/Getty Images

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Miss out on our other Countdown pieces? Check out more Indians history below!

Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 99 (Daniel Robertson)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 90 (Adam Cimber)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 88 (Phil Maton)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 77 (Jack Armstrong)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 76 (Tom Magrann)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 75 (Mike Walker)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 73 (Ricardo Rincon)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 72 (Jason Giambi)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 71 (Johnny Hodapp)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 70 (James Karinchak, George Kontos)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 69 (Luis Medina)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 68 (Jefry Rodriguez, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 67 (Aaron Civale, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 66 (Yasiel Puig, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 65 (Zach Plesac, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 64 (Tom Kramer, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 63 (Josh Smith, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 62 (Nick Wittgren, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 61 (Dan Otero, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 60 (Jhonny Peralta, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 59 (Carlos Carrasco)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 58 (Neil Ramirez, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 57 (Shane Bieber)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 56 (Cody Anderson)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 55 (Roberto Perez)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 54 (Hunter Wood)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 53 (Logan Allen)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 52 (Mike Clevinger)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 51 (numerous)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 50 (James Hoyt, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 49 (Tyler Olson, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 48 (Emmanuel Clase, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 47 (Trevor Bauer)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 46 (Jon Edwards, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 45 (Adam Plutko)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 44 (Nick Goody, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 43 (Josh Tomlin, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 42 (Mike Jackson, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 41 (Carlos Santana, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 40 (Bobby Bradley, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 39 (Oliver Perez, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 38 (Eric Haase, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 37 (Cody Allen, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 36 (Tyler Clippard, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 35 (Oscar Mercado, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 34 (A.J. Cole, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 33 (Brad Hand, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 32 (Franmil Reyes, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 31 (Danny Salazar, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 30 (Tyler Naquin, others)
Countdown to Indians’ 2020 Opening Day – 29 (Andre Thornton)

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