After an awkward exchange following Game 7 of the World Series in which he said he was “not employed by the team,” free agent Gerrit Cole, a front-runner for the AL Cy Young Award, said his “thank you” to the Houston Astros and their fans via social media on Thursday.

“Last night was a tough one for us and the heartbreak hasn’t gotten any easier today,” Cole said Thursday on Twitter. “Before I became an Astro I didn’t know much about Houston, but after just two years you have made it feel like home. So here’s what I know now. You have been overwhelmingly friendly, welcoming, and kind to my family and me. The Astros organization has been such a pleasure to play for, the Cranes are indeed special people and great owners. I’ve met lifelong friends on the team and in the community and learned a little about pitching along the way.

“… This is a relationship between a team and it’s fans like no other that I know. Thank you for making us better people and better players. This was a great season. We have a lot to be proud of.”

Cole set an Astros team record by winning his last 16 regular-season decisions and topped the AL with a career-best 2.50 ERA. His career-high 326 strikeouts were the most in the majors and set a franchise record that had stood since 1979 when J.R. Richard fanned 313.

Cole and Astros teammate Justin Verlander are the front-runners for the AL Cy Young Award.

When asked by a team official to meet with reporters after their 6-2 loss to the Washington Nationals on Wednesday, Cole, who was wearing a Boras Corp. hat, said “I’m not employed by the team.” However, after agreeing to interviews, he started out with, “I guess as a representative of myself …”

Boras is represented by agent Scott Boras, and is poised to command a big payday on the free agent market.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.