Baseball / Sports

Beautiful mind a key part of Corey Kluber's success with Indians

It was just minutes after Saturday's game in Yankee Stadium when Corey Kluber almost instantly recalled the pitches he used to strike out the side in the sixth inning after the first two batters had scratched out infield singles.

"Beltran and Drew both were fastballs and I think the one to Headley was a breaking ball," Kluber said.

The fact that the Indians right-hander remembered such details was no surprise. But teammate Jason Giambi said Kluber probably could answer the same question correctly a month from now.

"He remembers things -- 'The last time I faced this guy, it might have been four starts ago, he did this and this,' " Giambi said earlier this month. "He has that recall very quickly."

Kluber's power of recall seems to rival a golfer who can recite every shot he hit at Pebble Beach a decade ago. While Indians manager Terry Francona believes all major leaguers have that "universal" ability to some degree, Giambi said he believes Kluber's memory has helped put him in the upper echelon.

"I never paid attention to it," Kluber said last week at Yankee Stadium. "I think it's something that maybe comes natural to me."

Going into his scheduled start Friday night at home against the Orioles, Kluber is drawing consideration for the American League Cy Young Award. He's 13-6 with a 2.46 ERA in 25 starts. Since the All-Star break, he's 4-0 with a 0.68 ERA, walking four and striking out 45 in 40 innings.

Kluber's seven double-digit strikeout games are the most by an Indians pitcher since Bartolo Colon totaled eight in 2000. Kluber's six performances with 10 strikeouts and one or fewer walks are the most by an Indians pitcher over the past 100 seasons, surpassing Dennis Ecklersley's four in 1976.

"It seems like every few outings you're hearing something about the last 100 years," Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said of Kluber. "It's been crazy."

Kluber's success doesn't just stem from the four pitches he can throw at any point in the count to either side of the plate. His beautiful mind also plays a part.

Kluber said he doesn't spend hours poring over video, using it mainly for a hitter he's uncomfortable or unfamiliar with or doesn't remember well.

"If I have a pretty good idea what I'm looking to do against him, I don't really watch it too much. You gain that knowledge of guys as you face them more and more, what has and hasn't been successful for you. Kind of store it up there," he said, referring to his brain.

Kluber doesn't know if he had such recall in high school in Coppell, Texas, either in baseball or in his studies. But he uses the meetings the pitchers have before each series to trigger what he previously relied on against the hitters he'll face.

"When you go over information in meetings, it rekindles memories when they're talking about getting a guy out a certain way," Kluber said. "You're thinking, 'I remember that. I've gotten him out with that pitch before.' Or, 'He's gotten a hit off me doing that kind of thing.' "

Callaway said Kluber does a good job processing the information he gives him.

"I think that's probably the main thing this year," Callaway said. "Last year was kind of the stepping stone -- 'I'm going to really learn how to pitch to my strengths.' This year he's done that when he needed to, and to the hitters where he needs to pitch to their weaknesses, he really does a good job of that. He knows the scouting report, retains the information we give him in the advance meeting and uses it to his advantage.

"Some guys learn by sound or sight. He can hear something and he can retain it."

Kluber said his memory is better against American League Central Division hitters.

"I don't think I could tell you every pitch of the game, but if we were facing the Royals, I could look back to the last time I faced them and for the most part remember how I got guys out," Kluber said. "It's probably more so for division teams, but it's probably to some extent for everybody."

Kluber has his own theory on why he's developed a power of recall that amazes the 43-year-old Giambi.

"Maybe it's because I'm very locked in and focused when I'm out there," Kluber said. "I kind of retain what happens."

(c)2014 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

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