MINNEAPOLIS -- Scott Kazmir engaged in preliminary contract discussions with the Indians earlier this season, but those talks have been shut down at the moment. The Cleveland lefty wanted to put his future on hold in light of what is at stake for the Tribe at the moment.
There will be plenty of time for Kazmir -- a free agent this winter -- to continue negotiations with the Indians after the team's postseason chase is over. Prior to Sunday's game with the Twins, Kazmir did make it known that he would love to re-sign with Cleveland this coming offseason.
"I would love to," Kazmir said. "The staff, all the way up the organization, it's a first-class organization. The teammates that I have, it's just great chemistry. I love coming to the park. I would love to come back, for sure."
Kazmir turned in his last start of the regular season on Saturday with 11 strikeouts in six strong innings in a 5-1 victory over Minnesota. After pitching for the Sugar Land Skeeters in independent ball last season, Kazmir finished this year 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA and 162 strikeouts in 158 innings for the Indians, who signed him to a Minor League contract in December.
With free agency looming, Kazmir said Cleveland's willingness to give him the opportunity to pitch in the big leagues again means a lot to him.
"It sure does," said Kazmir, who was released by the Angels in 2011. "Last year, when I couldn't get much attention from any other teams, this was the team that stepped up and gave me a chance."
Cleveland stuck with Kazmir through his early ups and downs, which included going 3-4 with a 5.89 ERA and a .302 opponents' batting average in his first 11 starts. Dating back to that point on June 15, Kazmir has gone 7-5 with a 3.06 ERA and a .239 average against.
"We were pretty realistic about it," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "To expect him to go through the whole year without some hiccups or bumps in the road, that's unrealistic. I think he's managed it unbelievably well. I think our medical staff has done a great job."
Indians tired of hearing about easy closing schedule
MINNEAPOLIS -- One time-tested approach for a team to put itself in position to contend for the postseason is to defeat the clubs it should beat. The Indians have taken that theory to the extreme this season, feasting on opponents that have a losing record.
While that is undoubtedly the case, Cleveland's players are tired of hearing about their advantageous September schedule, which included series against the Astros, White Sox and Twins to end the season. Nick Swisher spoke up for his club when asked about the Tribe's recent slate.
"Why don't I just say this as a direct quote to everybody else," Swisher said. "No one was [complaining] about the schedule when we lost  games last year. That's enough of that schedule stuff, man. For real. You still have to win the games. No one was talking about scheduling when we were going through playing the Yankees, Boston, Detroit back to back. Nobody said anything then.
"Hey, if everybody feels that way, make it an even schedule. Make everybody play everybody the same amount of times so nobody can complain about it. You would like to think that a lot of people would be excited for an organization like us. We're kind of rejuvenated. We've got ourselves a new thing. If people want to hate on us for the last scheduling part, we can't control that. We didn't do the scheduling."
The Indians finished the season with a Major League-leading 56-18 record against teams with a losing record. Cleveland posted at least 20 wins in September for the first time since 1948 and earned a Wild Card berth due to its push over the past few weeks.
The Indians had a 30-8 record against the Twins and White Sox, who occupy the bottom two spots in the American League Central, respectively. That said, the AL Central champion Tigers posted a 23-15 record against the same two teams. Texas, who is in the Wild Card mix, had a 32-6 combined record against the Astros and Angels.
"Your schedule is what your schedule is," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "You always show up and play who you're supposed to. By the time the season's over, you've played the same teams, besides Interleague, where you sometimes get a bad draw. We caught Atlanta and Cincinnati, which wasn't a real great draw.
"You know what? You play who you play when they tell you to play, and you try to win."
Francona pitches Allen for AL Rookie of Year
MINNEAPOLIS -- A reliever could easily go overlooked when it comes to balloting for the American League Rookie of the Year Award. When it comes to Indians setup man Cody Allen, Cleveland manager Terry Francona hopes the voters have been paying attention.
Francona believes Allen should be given serious consideration.
"He should. I'm not sure why he wouldn't," Francona said on Sunday. "I probably should've said more, because he's pitched high-leverage innings pretty much almost from the start of the season. And a lot of innings. He should be in that. I probably should've mentioned it more."
Heading into Sunday's game in Minnesota, the 24-year-old Allen ranked second in the American League in appearances with 77. That is the second-highest single-season total in franchise history, trailing only Bob Howry (79 in 2005). Allen ranked fifth overall among AL relievers with 88 strikeouts and was 6-1 with a 2.43 ERA in 70 1/3 innings.
The AL Rookie of the Year race is seemingly wide open.
Tampa Bay has a pair of candidates in outfielder Wil Myers and starter Chris Archer. Other players who could garner votes include Oakland pitcher Dan Straily, Texas pitcher Martin Perez, shortstop Jose Iglesias (Boston and Detroit) and Twins outfielder Oswaldo Arcia.
Francona hopes Allen will get some attention, too.
"When you have a guy that you can go to in a leverage situation that can bail you out of innings," Francona said, "it makes the whole bullpen better. Obviously, you've got to have a guy in the ninth to finish the game. But, more often than not, the game is won or lost in the seventh or eighth."
Quote to note
"That's a pretty cool story. He deserves a lot of credit. I know [pitching coach Mickey Callaway] deserves a lot of credit, too, but Ubaldo is the one who's had to do it. We're at a game where we need to win and we're thrilled he's pitching."
-- Francona, on trusting Ubaldo Jimenez with the start in Game No. 162
• Indians center fielder Michael Bourn, who had dealt with a right wrist injury over the past four games, exited Sunday's regular-season finale in the ninth inning with a left calf injury. After the Tribe's 5-1 win over the Twins, Bourn said he did not feel the injury was serious. He will be re-evaluated prior to Wednesday's American League Wild Card Game in Cleveland.
• Twins manager Ron Gardenhire led his team to six division titles in his first nine years at the helm in Minnesota. Over the past three seasons, Gardenhire (998-946 in 12 seasons) has suffered at least 95 losses for the rebuilding Twins. Francona was disappointed to hear that Gardenhire is considered to be on the hot seat.
"I think he's one of the better managers in the game," Francona said. "I think if you ask every manager, they'd say the same thing. And I've known him for a long time, so I hope that's not the case. I know, for a long time, I've respected the way they've run things. They've been very consistent in their approach from the Minor Leagues up."
• Indians veteran Jason Giambi was on the bench for Sunday's game in Minnesota after leaving with a left forearm cramp in the sixth inning on Saturday. The 42-year-old Giambi experienced tightness in his arm, but is only considered day to day. Francona said he did not expect Giambi to need much recovery time.
• The Indians became only the sixth team since 1900 to end a season with a winning streak of at least 10 games. The list included the 1971 Orioles (11), 1970 Orioles (11), 1960 Yankees (15), 1937 Pirates (10) and 1915 White Sox (11). Cleveland also became the first team since the 1943 Cardinals to have seven series sweeps of at least four games in a single season.