Considering how long it’s been since Corey Kluber has pitched more than one inning against a major league opponent, the two-time Cy Young winner’s Yankees spring debut on Wednesday against the Blue Jays could not have gone any smoother.
Kluber pitched two perfect innings, needing just 22 pitches to retire all six batters he faced. After striking out Rowdy Tellez to end the first, he struck out two more Jays in the second to end his night.
After pitching in just seven games with the Cleveland Indians in 2019 before suffering an arm injury, Kluber pitched exactly one inning with the Texas Rangers in 2020 before suffering a muscle tear in his right arm.
So even if Wednesday’s game was just a two-inning spring training outing, it certainly meant a lot to the 34-year-old.
“I feel like I was pretty solid. First and foremost, I think it was nice to get out there and face another team, fun to get out there and face another team,” Kluber said after leaving the game. “I was joking around afterwards that it was the first time I went multiple innings against a real opponent in almost two years, which is too long.
“It was fun to get out there, and obviously it was a bonus that it went well as well, but I think first and foremost I just wanted to get out there and feel the adrenaline of being in a game and stuff again.”
A 10-year veteran in the big leagues, this year’s spring training is certainly not Kluber’s first rodeo, as he enters the season with a 3.16 ERA and a 98-58 record in his 209 regular season starts.
But with everything he’s been through the last couple of seasons, Wednesday’s outing felt like a good first step for the veteran.
“It probably went as smooth as I’ve had (a first spring outing). I don’t know if that’s good or bad,” Kluber said. “I think that obviously there’s going to be a point in time when you’re going to have to work yourself out of a jam or you’re going to have to kind of work through a long inning and things like that.
“But as far as physically, I feel like I’m in a good spot. We’ve talked about it before, but I don’t feel like I’m out there with any thoughts of the injuries or anything like that that I’ve dealt with in the past. In my mind, I’m in a good spot and I’m just trying to prepare for the season the best I can.”
Signed by the Yankees this offseason, Kluber, if healthy, could prove to be a difference-maker in a rotation headlined by ace Gerrit Cole.
But the regular season is just under a month away, so for now, Kluber will continue to build off his solid debut as he ramps up his workload.
“I don’t think it’s ever a finished product. I think no matter what, no matter how good or bad it goes, there’s room for improvement,” Kluber said. “So I think tomorrow I’ll take a look at it, and maybe identify some things to work on in the bullpen before the next start, whether it’s sequencing or shape of pitches or things like that, and then try to go out there and execute that the next time.”