CLEVELAND — There was truly no one better in the American League in 2022, and now, Emmanuel Clase has the hardware to prove it.
By a unanimous decision, the Guardians' closer was named the AL's Mariano Rivera Reliever of the Year Tuesday at the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings in San Diego. The 24-year-old becomes the first Cleveland pitcher to win the award since its inception in 2014.
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Acquired from the Texas Rangers in the 2019 offseason in exchange for two-time Cy Young honoree Corey Kluber, Clase's tenure with the club got off to a rocky start when he missed all of 2020 due to a suspension for performance-enhancing drug use. However, the right-hander recovered the next year with 24 saves and a microscopic 1.29 ERA to finish fifth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting, and the Guards showed faith in his efforts by signing him to a new contract that could keep him in a Cleveland uniform through 2028.
Clase not only rewarded the front office for their confidence in 2022; he dominated, leading all of baseball with 42 saves and 77 appearances while posting a 1.36 ERA. The fireballer also averaged more than one strikeout per inning, and his 9.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio was better than all qualifying starters.
In recognition of his performance, Clase made his first career All-Star team in July and notched the save in the AL victory, and followed that up in October by pitching six scoreless postseason innings with a win and another save. Just this week, he was a first-team All-MLB selection, recognizing him as one of the game's best relievers for the year.
Besides Clase, several other Guardians have earned various accolades this offseason after the team won the 2022 AL Central title: Terry Francona was named AL Manager of the Year for a third time, while President of Baseball Operations Chris Antonetti earned MLB Executive of the Year honors. In addition, four Cleveland players won AL Gold Gloves at their respective positions, and José Ramírez notched his fourth career Silver Slugger.
Over in the National League, Mets closer Edwin Díaz was also a unanimous Trevor Hoffman Reliever of the Year choice, breaking a four-year run of wins by members of the Milwaukee Brewers. Díaz joined Clase as an All-Star and All-MLB selection with 32 saves and a 1.31 ERA, striking out an incredible 17.1 batters per nine innings while also helping the Mets make the postseason for the first time in six years.
While Clase is the first Cleveland pitcher to win this iteration of the MLB Reliever of the Year Award, José Mesa did earn the prestigious AL Rolaids Relief Man Award in 1995, when he saved 46 games with a 1.13 ERA to finished second in the Cy Young tally. The Rolaids honor ran from 1976-2012, with Mesa being the only Indians fire-stopper to be selected.