GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Indians fans are familiar with young right-handers Corey Kluber and Zach McAllister, but they aren’t household names nationwide.
Manager Terry Francona thinks that’s about to change.
“I’ll take those two any day of the week, and let’s go try to win,” Francona said prior to watching McAllister toss two scoreless innings Tuesday in a 5-4 walk-off win over the White Sox at Goodyear Ballpark.
“They compete, they want to get better, they listen, they’re good teammates. They just don’t have eight years in the big leagues. That’s OK, it doesn’t mean we can’t win.
“They do everything you’re supposed to do. The only thing they haven’t done yet is do it for multiple years. That will happen, also.”
Kluber and McAllister are at least on their way after producing solid seasons last year to secure spots in the rotation this spring. McAllister, 26, went 9-9 with a 3.75 ERA in 24 starts, while Kluber, 27, went 11-5 with a 3.85 ERA in 26 games (24 starts).
The combined effort more than earned Francona’s respect.
“It’s always nice to know that your manager’s got your back,” said Kluber, who joined the rotation from Triple-A Columbus during the first month of the season, replacing an injured Brett Myers. “He’s right, we don’t have the experience of some other guys. But I think we feel confident in ourselves and confident in each other. We still feel confident in giving the team a chance to go out and win on a consistent basis.”
For the first time in their careers, both pitchers arrived at training camp without having to compete for a job. But there was no resting on last year’s success for either.
They have made two exhibition appearances each as they attempt to build on last season.
“It looks like he worked really hard this winter,” Francona said of McAllister, who actually beat out Kluber last spring for one of the final two spots in the rotation. “I hate to talk about velocity, but when you can pitch at a nice comfortable velocity and you got a little extra, it kind of shows how hard he worked. His arm strength is tremendous.”
“I don’t think I ever want to feel settled or comfortable, but I think (job stability) gives you that sense of confidence, that extra little bit of belief in yourself,” Kluber said. “Personal experiences probably hold more value than somebody telling you you can do it.”
Not everything went smoothly for Kluber and McAllister in 2013. In the most bizarre fashion, each sustained right middle finger sprains and spent extended time on the disabled list.
“I think it was 100 percent a freak thing, even more so that Zach and I both had it in the same season,” said Kluber.