How do you say goodbye to your home? How do you say thank you to 400,000 people?
Cleveland is the only city I’ve known as a major leaguer. Playing for the Indians has been the biggest constant in my professional life. In 10 years there, I pitched pretty well — won some awards and went to the playoffs a few times. It was fun. But just as important as that, Cleveland was where I learned how to be a professional baseball player.
I’ve always been a show-up-and-go-to-work kind of guy, and there isn’t a city better suited to that blue-collar mentality than Cleveland. It’s been a perfect marriage ever since September 1, 2011, when the Indians called me up to the big leagues for the first time.
It was the middle of the night when I got the phone call. I was actually trying to get some sleep while on a bus trip with the Columbus Clippers. We were on our way back home after a road trip to Louisville. This was it, my call-up. The moment I had been waiting for. It was happening. But I was so out of it that I remember the moment but not many specifics. No matter, I was ready. I had to be — I pitched that day.
Cleveland was where I learned how to be a professional baseball player.
It took another year of shuttling back and forth before the Indians finally added me to the rotation full-time in 2013. But I’m proud that I always did everything in my power to seize every opportunity and make the most of it. In 10 years in Cleveland, I never stopped doing that.
Everything my teammates and I did was always about trying to bring home a championship — especially after the Cavs won the NBA title in 2016. But that doesn’t mean we had any expectations. It was always about playing that day’s game, about not getting ahead of ourselves. When we went on our run to the World Series a few months later, we didn’t want to think that we had anything in the bag. We were pretty young, and almost no one on that team had playoff experience. Either you let the pressure affect you or you don’t. It might seem obvious, but in the World Series you know you’re still playing when there are 28 other teams that are not. That was the mentality. We’re still playing. One game at a time. You gotta put your head down and get to work.
Cleveland has embraced that mentality for as long as I’ve been there. That’s what people there do every day. As terrible as it felt not to win a championship, it was amazing the way the city embraced the team that year — in a way I can’t quite put into words. The outpouring of support from the entire fan base to the players and their families was special. The fans and the city didn’t beat us up over losing. They supported us.
For me, as the guy who took the hill in the deciding game of the World Series that year, that support was huge. When I started against the Cubs at Progressive Field for Game 7 in November 2016 I wanted to get it done — and there were 38,000 fans in that ballpark who wanted the same thing, too. You could feel it. It was electric.
But, unfortunately, we didn’t get it done. I never blame anyone or anything when things don’t go as planned. Instead, I put my head down and I get back to work. And that’s what we all did after that World Series: We dusted ourselves off, put our heads down and got back to work. That’s what you do when you’re from Cleveland.
There has been speculation that I pitched with injuries during the playoffs. To me, there’s no difference between a night in August and a night in October. If I feel I can help the team win, I’m going to take the ball. Bumps and bruises are part of the game, and I’ll never use them as an excuse if I don’t pitch to the standard I’ve set for myself.
And not pitching because of an injury is exactly what happened to me last year. After I got nailed by that line drive last May I missed the rest of the season. While dealing with my injury, I watched the moves the club was making — and I watched as people wrote us off because of the other injuries we were dealing with and some of the trades we made. That was no fun.
I wanted to play, to help in some way. But as I sat on the sidelines I started to come to terms with the possibility that my days left in my only professional home could be numbered. The time might finally have come to move on. I understand that baseball is a business and I understand how this business works — and I accepted the fact that I could be traded.
So when I got the call last month telling me that I had been dealt to the Texas Rangers, I can’t say I was blindsided. I’m moving on. Cleveland is the only big league city I’ve ever known, and I will always love it and carry it in a special place in my heart. It’s bittersweet to say goodbye, but I am off to a new, exciting chapter in Texas — and looking forward to it. All I can do now is put my head down and go to work again.
But before I go, I want to take the time to say thank you to Cleveland. The things I’ll always remember about this city are my relationships. My relationships with the guys I’ve played with. With the fans. With the trainers. With the people I saw in the clubhouse every day.
There are also relationships away from the ballpark that I will miss. I will miss all the smiling faces at batting practice for Kluber’s Kids. I will miss the patients and staff at Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals. I will miss Ali Rieman, the first patient with whom my wife, Amanda, and I built a close bond, and who inspired us to start our foundation.
All I can do now is put my head down and go to work again.
Thank you to guys like Lonnie Chisenhall and Yan Gomes and Carlos Carrasco and Josh Tomlin, and all the other Indians teammates who opened their homes to me and my family. Thank you to Wine Bar Rocky River for the postgame hangouts. And thank you to Amanda for raising our three children in the only baseball city they’ve ever known. Cleveland will always be special to me and my family. Amanda is from Massachusetts. I’m from Texas. But for 10 years Cleveland was truly our home.
Thank you to the Indians for a decade of great memories: 2016, the win streak in 2017, 20 wins in 2018. Cleveland is where I became a major league ballplayer, and it’s where I developed my identity as a pitcher. There are a lot of things I’m proud of, a lot of things that we accomplished together. And I’ll never forget any of it.
If you know me, you know that I’m a guy who likes to keep things on the field. And now it’s time for me to get back to work — to get back on the field. I haven’t pitched since May 1. I’ve talked to some guys who have moved on from Cleveland to other teams, and they told me it can be a little weird to go back to Progressive Field and be in the visitor’s clubhouse. But they also say that, in a way, returning to Cleveland in a new uniform gave them a sense of closure.
When I come back to Cleveland next season, I’ll be coming back as a visitor. But I’ll still go over to the Indians’ clubhouse and say hello, still make sure to see all the people I saw every day when I was playing there. I’m excited to be in a new situation, but those things will always be a part of me.
I’ll be back as a Ranger, but I’ll always be from Cleveland.