Corey Kluber's start is a step in the right direction for Red Sox
By Tim Burke
The Red Sox made one of the more underrated moves of the offseason when they signed Corey Kluber to a one-year, $10 million contract with a 2024 team option. The two-time Cy Young winner will turn 37 later this month and no longer has the velocity he used to in his Cy Young days due to several shoulder injuries. His fastball velocity is among the slowest in all of baseball.
Despite that, Kluber is still an incredibly effective starting pitcher. A major reason is an incredible movement on his off-speed pitches, which resulted in a 36% chase rate on pitches out of the zone, among the best in baseball. However, the biggest reason why Kluber is still so effective is because of his experience.
In an interview with Jason Mastrodonato, formerly of the Boston Herald, Kluber spoke about how he has adapted to his significant decline in velocity. "Obviously, the velocity isn't what it was six, seven years ago, but to counteract that, I think I'm a smarter pitcher than I was then without having the ability to rely on stuff as much," Kluber said. "I think there's other tools you can use besides just that. I think I've learned better how to game plan, how to make in-game adjustments, mid-at-bat adjustments."
Corey Kluber's in-game adjustments paid off in his 2023 Red Sox debut
On Wednesday afternoon against the Pirates, Kluber showed his terrific ability to make in-game adjustments. Kluber's first inning against the Pirates did not start out promising, with three of the first four Pirates reaching base, but Kluber showed total composure on the mound getting out of the inning, leaving the bases loaded and the game scoreless.
Throughout the day, Kluber heavily relied on a combination of sinkers and cutters to get batters out. His offspeed pitches did not appear to have their usual devastating movement behind them, and the frigid temperature at Fenway was likely a factor behind that. But despite not having his best stuff today, Kluber kept the Pirates' bats quiet throughout five innings of work while allowing three hits, one walk, and striking out two batters. The only damage allowed was a solo shot by Carlos Santana that would have been a home run in only 6 of 30 ballparks.
Beyond that, Kluber was in full command of the game. After two turns through the order, Red Sox Manager Alex Cora turned to the bullpen to finish the game. It was a questionable move, with Kluber only throwing 67 pitches through five innings. When asked in his post-game press conference about the manager's decision to pull him from the game, Kluber stated, "The way I view it now and the way I always have is my job is to pitch as long as the manager says whether it is five or nine innings. There are a lot of things that go into their decision on their part that are beyond me."
Kluber did his job on Wednesday, but unfortunately, the Red Sox offense did not theirs, and the Red Sox lost 4-1 and were swept at home by Pittsburgh. The Red Sox rotation has had a terrible start to the season, posting a 10.30 ERA on their first run through the rotation. However, Kluber's performance against the Pirates was a step in the right direction.
There will not be many times when the Red Sox bats were as silent as they were on Wednesday. Kluber's start can also serve as an excellent example for other pitchers in the rotation. The Red Sox have several Starting pitchers who are young and inexperienced such as Bryan Bello, Garrett Whitlock, Tanner Houck, Kutter Crawford, and Josh Winckowski. They will not have their best stuff every time they take the mound and will need to learn how to make important adjustments to give their team a chance to win.
At this stage, Kluber is unlikely to carry the load for a rotation like Nathan Eovaldi did for Boston in 2021 but still serves as an excellent leader for this staff. Learning from Corey Kluber, who can adjust in-game and has persevered through several obstacles throughout his career, is an incredible luxury for these young arms as they develop. The impact of having a successful and intelligent veteran like Corey Kluber on this staff and clubhouse can be astronomical for this club.