Michael Brantley voted to All-Star Game; Kluber up for Final Vote
Fans have until Thursday to vote and help Kluber to join Brantely
CLEVELAND—Major League Baseball announced rosters for the 85th annual All-Star Game late Sunday night.
For the Indians, they will have at least one representative wearing Chief Wahoo in the Mid-Summer Classic, and potentially another.
For the first time in his six-year career, left fielder Michael Brantley has been voted in by players and teammates as a reserve outfielder for the American League.
“I think it’s well deserved,” manager Terry Francona said. “I think it means a lot that the players voted for him. I think that shows the respect he has and is growing throughout our league.”
Since the calendar flipped to 2014, all Brantley has done is hit. The 27-year-old slugger is currently hitting .321 with 20 doubles, one triple and 57 RBI, having already set a career-high with 13 home runs through 83 games.
“I don’t know if you could just put it into one word or one sentence to describe this,” Brantley said. “It’s an awesome feeling. I thank my teammates, the Cleveland Indians for giving me this opportunity, my family and everybody else that took the steps to get me here. It’s a privilege, it’s a blessing and it’s an honor.”
Coming to Cleveland in the summer of 2008 as the player to be named later in the C.C. Sabathia trade to Milwaukee, Brantley has quickly blossomed into a five-tool player in a few short seasons. His ability to drive the ball to all fields with power is one key, but the left fielder has showed he is also one of the game’s best defensively, leading all of baseball with 10 outfield assists.
“I think it’s almost the normal growth of a good, young player,” Francona said. He’s learning not only himself, but the league and how teams are attacking him. Some balls that he’s maybe hit in the gap are now carrying for home runs. He understands hitter’s counts and things like that, and he knows when to turn on a ball and when to fight something off.”
As he’s matured from a rookie to one of the team's leaders, Brantley has become more confident in himself as an all-around big leaguer.
“For me personally just being more confident and learning from what I did the last couple years,” he said. “Trying to make good adjustments at the plate and just leaning on my teammates. My teammates have done a great job of just keeping me positive, always feeding off one another. I can’t thank them enough because they’re the reason why I’m here, without them, this is not possible.”
“When you have a great group of guys in that locker room that picks you up every day, that want to play every day and get excited about playing, it makes your job so much easier.”
Brantley currently ranks third in the American League in runs, fourth in batting average, seventh in hits and ninth in RBI. He couldn’t be more humbled for the opportunity.
“It means a lot to me,” Brantley said. “Just how I play the game, how I respect the game and just playing hard each and every day. They voted for me to make this appearance and my hat goes off to them. You never know when it’s going to happen again, but to have this happen for me now, words can’t describe how happy I am inside and how blessed I am.”
As the son of former Major League outfielder Mickey Brantley, the father-son baseball bond couldn’t be any stronger.
I’m excited to see his reaction,” he said. “I can’t wait to just talk to him and see what he has to say. We haven’t talked about it at all so for me to have the opportunity to have a phone call and tell him, it’s going to be something very special and something I’ll never forget.
“I look forward to calling my father, and I want to talk to my mother and my sister. I want to make sure I call them first so they can experience with me.”
The outfielder may have one other teammate experience the All-Star Game and all its festivities with him, as Indians starter Corey Kluber is one of five A.L. players up for the online Final Vote.
“I think we all think Kluber is an All-Star pitcher this year,” Francona said. “Knowing the system and how it works and everything, rather than kind of gripe about it, I think that would be a phenomenal feat for us as a city to find a way to get him on that team. I think his pitching deserves it.”
“That’s as cool as anything that he feels that strong about it,” Kluber said of Francona. “To hear him say that means as much if not more than being in the Final Vote.”
On a team with a lot of inconsistency in the rotation, Kluber has been the go-to model of consistency for the Tribe. Leading the pitching staff with eight wins and a 2.86 ERA, Kluber is fourth in all of baseball with 137 strikeouts so far this season.
“It’s an honor,” the Indians right-hander said. “Obviously my goal is not for individual recognition, but it’s nice and a reward to having a good first half. I think at the same time you could ask every single person in the locker room if there was one person they want representing our team, it’s Brantley.”
Like the Tribe left fielder, Kluber also came to the Cleveland via a trade. As part of the three-team deal that sent Jake Westbrook to St. Louis in 2010, the 28-year old right-hander has been the ace of the rotation in this just his second full season in the majors.
“I’m just trying to be as consistent as I can from start to start,” Kluber said. “Trying to avoid the ups and downs and avoid the downs as much as possible, and keep the good stuff rolling as long as you can. I think I proved myself last year that I’m capable of being a successful pitcher in the big leagues, and I think I carried that confidence with me into this year.”
Notching his eighth win Sunday, it marked the third time this season Kluber recorded at least 10 strikeouts while allowing one or fewer walks, becoming just the eighth Cleveland starter since 1914 to accomplish the feat.
“I’m pushing for him first and foremost,” Brantley said. “He throws the ball great every time he goes out there. I know it’s going to be a battle for him to get there, but at the same time he deserves it.”
“Just watching him grow and blossom into the pitcher he is today, I mean I only see him getting better. He’s going to be good for a long time to come.”
Over his last four starts, Kluber has struck out 29 over 29 1/3 innings of work while owning an astounding 1.09 ERA.
“If it happens, that’s great,” Kluber said. “But I’m not going to be down if it doesn’t happen. I wasn’t planning on making the All-Star game. It’s an honor to be recognized, but ultimately individual stuff is not what I’m shooting for. My goal is for the team to win.”
As for both of the Indians representatives, their skipper couldn’t be more proud.
“They’re two of the more respectable guys you’ll ever meet,” Francona said. “It would be a huge honor to watch those guys get introduced and be there to watch it live. I’d get a big kick out of that.”
Voting for the All-Star Final Vote ends Thursday July 10 at 4:00 p.m. EST.
You can catch the 2014 MLB All-Star Game Tuesday July 15 at 8:00 p.m. EST on FOX.
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lets get voting CLEVELAND!!!