December 22, 2014

Medina
Intermittent clouds
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Indians want to lock up Kluber

CLEVELAND — The Indians’ key position players, including Michael Brantley and Carlos Santana, are all locked up under long-term contracts.

General manager Chris Antonetti hopes to add pitcher Corey Kluber to that list.

“It’s safe to say we have an incredible appreciation for what Corey has done,” Antonetti said Friday prior to Cleveland’s series opener against Baltimore. “I don’t want to talk specifics, but we expect him to be a major part of what we’re doing for years to come.”

The right-hander has become the Indians’ ace in his fourth MLB season, bringing a 13-6 record and 2.46 ERA into his start against the Orioles. He also had 187 strikeouts in 171⅔ innings, the sixth-best ratio in the American League.

Though Kluber combined to go 13-10 with a 4.32 ERA over his first three campaigns, Antonetti said the team saw signs of his growth in 2013 on and off the field.

“Corey sets the bar in terms of work ethic for all the guys in that room, and it’s incredible the composure that he maintains on the mound,” he said. “At this point, we feel that we’re going to win the game every time he takes the ball.”

While Kluber will be atop the Tribe’s rotation for the remainder of the season, the fifth spot continues to be a revolving door for prospects.

Right-hander Danny Salazar will be recalled from Triple-A Columbus to start Sunday against Baltimore, while left-hander T.J. House moves into a bullpen role.

Salazar, who started the 2013 wild-card game against Tampa Bay, is 4-5 with a 4.88 ERA in 12 starts for Cleveland.

House has also made 12 appearances this year — going 1-3 with a 4.13 ERA — but Indians manager Terry Francona said his relief role might not be permanent.

“T.J.’s next start will depend on how Kluber feels after this game,” the skipper said. “We’ve got an off-day Monday, so we can move things around a little bit, depending on what Corey wants to do. If he’s good to pitch (Wednesday in Minnesota), good. But if Corey thinks an extra day will help, then we’ll do it that way and probably slide T.J. in.”

The Tribe has used 21 pitchers on the season, but Kluber is the only one with more than five victories. He will not be eligible for arbitration until 2016, which gives Antonetti plenty of time to negotiate his next critical contract.

“Even though he really only has two years in the majors, Corey has emerged as one of the best pitchers in the American League,” Antonetti said. “We’re proud of how far he’s come and we’re excited to see what he does next.”

Bourny back

Center fielder Michael Bourn (left hamstring strain) was activated off the 15-day disabled list before the game, but was not in the lineup. His last game with the Indians was July 6.

The Tribe did not have to make a corresponding roster move because former closer John Axford was claimed off waivers Thursday by the Pirates.

“I’m happy Bourny is back, and I think he’s thrilled about it,” Francona said. “He understands the importance of how his legs can affect the game, so we want to use common sense with the way we use him this weekend.”

Bourn, who is hitting .267 with seven stolen bases in 66 games, is slated to start today and Sunday. The two-time National League All-Star has spent 63 days on the DL this season with left hamstring issues.

Antonetti said Cleveland’s team doctors believe Bourn will not be plagued by hamstring problems going forward, but is understandably cautious about his status.

“We’re hopeful he’ll get past this, but has had some setbacks with his hamstrings and lower leg this year,” the general manager said. “We’ll have to see how it plays out.”

Minor details

Center fielder James Ramsey went 5-for-5 with four RBI — falling a triple shy of hitting for the cycle — in Triple-A Columbus’ 7-4 win over Lehigh Valley. Ramsey, acquired from St. Louis in exchange for pitcher Justin Masterson, is batting .314 in 13 games with the Clippers.

l Shortstop Jaime Pedroza hit a solo homer in the top of the seventh inning, giving Double-A Akron a 1-0 win in the second game of a doubleheader at Portland. The RubberDucks also won the opener 4-2 as right-hander Will Roberts allowed two runs in five innings.

l Left-hander Anderson Polanco struck out eight in five innings for Single-A Lake County in a 4-3 win over Dayton. Second baseman Paul Hendrix belted the two-run, game-winning homer in the seventh, but made two errors.

Extra innings

Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco (4-4, 3.60 ERA) takes on Orioles righty Ubaldo Jimenez (4-8, 4.51 ERA) in the second game of the three-game series today at 7:05 p.m. Jimenez pitched for the Tribe from 2011-2013 — compiling a 26-30 record in 74 starts — before signing a four-year contract with Baltimore on Feb. 19.

l Former Cleveland pitchers Scott Bailes, Doug Jones and Greg Swindell took part in the pregame Rally Alley promotion.

l The Indians completed interleague play with a 10-10 record, which is tied for the 10th-best mark in the AL.

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.