CLEVELAND — “Dr. Smooth” will make a house call in Minnesota on July 15, and he might have some company.
Michael Brantley, Cleveland’s multitalented left fielder, was chosen via player vote to represent the Indians in the All-Star Game at Target Field. He may or may not be joined by starting pitcher Corey Kluber, who was selected as one of five finalists for the fan Internet vote that determines the last roster spot in each league.
It is Brantley’s first All-Star selection and would be the same for Kluber.
“In Brantley’s case, I think it’s well-deserved,” said Indians manager Terry Francona, who will serve as an assistant coach to American League manager John Farrell, who captains the Red Sox. “I think it means a lot that the players voted for him. I think that shows the respect he has, and it’s growing throughout our league. And with Klubes, I think we all think Klubes is an All-Star pitcher this year.”
An argument could be made that Brantley, who is batting .321 (fourth in the AL) with a team-leading 13 home runs and 57 RBIs and is tied for the major league lead with 10 outfield assists, deserved a spot in the starting lineup. But he wasn’t among the top three in fan voting, with those nods going to Toronto’s Jose Bautista, Los Angeles’ Mike Trout and Baltimore’s Adam Jones.
Still, Brantley was grateful for the recognition from his peers.
“It means a lot to me,” he said. “I respect the game, just playing hard each and every day. They voted for me to make this appearance. I thank them, my teammates and the Cleveland Indians for giving me this opportunity. It’s a privilege, it’s a blessing, it’s an honor.”
Kluber wasn’t chosen by the players or Farrell, but there’s no denying he’s had an All-Star season. After working another gem Sunday in a 4-1 victory over the Royals, Kluber is 8-6 with a 2.86 ERA in 19 starts. His 137 strikeouts over 125⅔ innings rank fourth in the AL behind former Cy Young award winners David Price, Felix Hernandez and Max Scherzer.
“It’s an honor,” Kluber said. “Obviously, my goal is not for individual recognition, but it’s a nice reward, so to speak, of having a good first half.
“At the same time, I think if you ask every single person in that locker room if there’s one person they want representing their team, it’s Brantley — the way he plays, the teammate he is, the guy he is. He’s as deserving as anybody in the league.”
Francona asked Indians fans to step up for Kluber in the Internet vote that began Sunday night and runs until Thursday at 4 p.m. Kluber is competing with four other pitchers — Dallas Keuchel (Houston), Rick Porcello (Detroit), Chris Sale (Chicago) and Garrett Richards (Los Angeles) — from larger markets than Cleveland.
“Knowing the system and how it works, rather than gripe about it, I think what we can do as a city is, even though we’re not the biggest city, maybe jump on board and find a way to get him on that team,” Francona said. “I think that would be a phenomenal feat.”
“I’m pushing for him first and foremost,” Brantley said of Kluber. “He deserves it. He keeps us in every game. I really hope he joins me.”
Lonnie Chisenhall and Yan Gomes were also considered All-Star possibilities, especially Chisenhall, who has been on an extended hot streak since April 29. His .338 batting average in 72 games leads all AL players, but he doesn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify among the official league leaders.