When the Yankees announced the signed 2x Cy Young winner Corey Kluber, there were mixed reviews. In a high-risk, high-reward acquisition this offseason, many people looked at the upside. Kluber is solidified proven veteran who has dominated in the past. He has worked with the Yankees staff in his recovery in mechanics, specifically with Eric Cressey, the Yankees’ director of player health and performance, and pitching coach Matt Blake. Then there were the Negative Nancy's, stating "he's washed", "he hasn't been good since 2018", and "this will go poorly". Flash forward to today, and in a small sample size, Kluber proved some doubters wrong and shined in his first game of the season. His control at times was not the strongest, but his mound presence and demeanor were beautiful. His craft shined and performed like an artist, painting the strike zone corners like he was Picasso. His arsenal of pitches, including his filthy slider, breaking ball, and two-seamer, were no match for the Blue Jays lineup. There were a couple of jams, but Kluber escaped them masterfully.
Boone stretched his luck a bit, where he should have kept Kluber in the dugout. He started the fifth inning by giving up a home run to Seimein, making it a 3-2 ball game. After 4 innings and 74 pitches, Kluber exited with a nice ovation from the fans. He finished the game with 5 hits, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts, 1 earned run, and 45 strikes. Not bad for a Bronx debut! It wasn't the prettiest outing, but it was nice to see Clint lost a ball in the sun in the first inning, and Gary Sanchez's defensive struggles showed allowing runners to advance and score on two passed balls and an overthrow to second.
It's been a minute since we have seen Kluber in action. His debut last season was cut short after just 18 pitches for the Rangers. A torn muscle in his right shoulder took him out for the remainder of the year. In 2019, he had only 7 starts before being shut down with an oblique strain and a broken forearm. During spring training, Kluber faired well, going 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA in four starts with 14 strikeouts and seven walks in 13 innings. Kluber took the mound on Saturday at Yankee Stadium, and flashes of his old self were present on the mound. Kluber has had some visitor success at Yankee Stadium. He has made four career starts in the Bronx, going 3-1 with a 2.25 ERA, the most recent one coming during his AL Cy Young Award-winning season in 2017.
It is only one game, but it was great to see Kluber back on the mound looking healthy. There are a few loose ends that could get cleaned up, but overall Yankee fans should be happy with his performance. His command was so-so, but his pitches stretched the strike zone, and he escaped any major trouble before allowing multiple runs to score. Having a pitcher like him a part of this team can mean so much in terms of veteran leadership, pitching development, depth, and potential postseason matchups.