Yankees’ Corey Kluber takes massive step forward in quest to return to Cy Young form

New York Yankees, Corey Kluber
Feb 21, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Corey Kluber (28) throws a pitch at Yankees player development complex. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

When the New York Yankees signed Corey Kluber to a one-year, $11 million deal, they knew it might take him some time to fight back to his regular form. He hasn’t pitched in almost a year, seeing just 36.2 innings since 2018.

His last successful season came in 2018 when he posted a 2.89 ERA and 3.12 FIP. His 5.5 WAR was down a bit from 7.2 in 2017, when he logged a 2.25 ERA.

Over the last decade, Kluber is considered one of the best pitchers in baseball, but unfortunate injuries have set him back significantly. A broken arm caused by a line drive ended his season prematurely in 2019, and a shoulder injury derailed his 2020 season.

After months of rehabilitation, Kluber made his first appearance for the Yankees against the Toronto Blue Jays in Wednesday nights game. Unfortunately, the game was not televised for everyone to enjoy his stellar performance. He lasted 2.0 innings, striking out three batters and allowing zero Blue Jays on base.

“I feel like it was pretty solid. First and foremost, I think it was nice to get out there and. Fun to get out there and face another team. I was joking around afterwards, it’s the first time I’ve gone multiple innings against a real opponent in almost two years, which is too long,” Kluber said after the Yankees 4-1 win. “So it was fun to get out there. And obviously, there’s a bonus that it went well as well. I think first and foremost, I just kind of want to get out there and feel the adrenaline of being in the game and stuff again.”

The adrenaline that Kluber experienced was exactly what he needed to find his groove. The Yankees expect him to be the number two in the rotation behind Gerrit Cole, and he undoubtedly proved he’s got the stuff to do it on Wednesday. A bit of consistency over the next few weeks is essential, but general manager Brian Cashman must be happy with what he saw in this victory.

“I probably maybe needed a little bit of that adrenaline to kind of remind my body what it feels like to go out there and have that,” Kluber said. “It’s hard to replicate that in a bullpen and replicate that in a live BP. For me, at least, it’s hard to get that same amount of adrenaline, same butterflies, all that kind of stuff. So I think it was good for me to feel that and go out there and kind of regulate everything and pitch with that..”