Corey Kluber showed signs Tuesday night he can be the kind of weapon the Yankees envisioned when they signed him in January, but he and the team probably need to wait a bit longer for his return.
The two-time Cy Young winner posted his best rehab start yet, in Double-A Somerset’s 6-2 win over Akron in Bridgewater, N.J., but he likely did not last long enough to warrant a call-up the next turn through the Yankees’ rotation.
In his third rehab start, Kluber settled in after a rough first inning against the mighty RubberDucks (A Cleveland affiliate), throwing 60 pitches over 3 ²/₃ innings while allowing two runs on five hits with a walk and four strikeouts.
“He’ll just continue to get sharper the more that he gets back into his routine, builds up his pitch count and builds up that rhythm, that midseason form that you have to go refine after having that long time period off,” Somerset pitching coach Daniel Moskos said.
Both of the runs Kluber surrendered came in the first, when he threw 22 pitches, hit a batter and let up three ground singles that found holes.
He allowed a couple of baserunners in the second, but pitched out of trouble. He retired seven straight before allowing a fourth-inning single. He had thrown 56 pitches in his last rehab start, and Moskos said the plan Tuesday was 60-65 pitches.
“I’m seeing improvement from last time out,” said Moskos, who cautioned he doesn’t make the call-up decisions. “We’re just kind of getting his feet wet, getting back into the swing of things.”
Kluber, who was knocked around in his first rehab start (allowing five runs while recording four outs on Aug. 12 with Somerset), showed a bit more hope in his second outing (three innings, three runs with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre).
A healthy, able and stretched-out two-time Cy Young winner would be welcomed to a Yankees rotation that has holes to plug.
Luis Severino, who is coming back from Tommy John surgery, is set to see Dr. Neal ElAttrache this week in California, and there is concern over whether he will pitch in the majors this season. Domingo German (shoulder inflammation) is trying to return and is expected to throw a bullpen session this weekend. Andrew Heaney has not looked like a reliable fifth starter.
The 35-year-old Kluber could be more than that.
After battling various injuries the past two seasons (including a Grade 2 tear of the teres major muscle in the same right shoulder that bothered him this year), which limited him to eight games in 2019 and ’20, Kluber resembled his old self for the first two months of the season.
The righty, who posted a 3.04 ERA in 10 starts, flirted with one no-hitter, then finished the job in a May 19 start against Texas.
One start later, on May 25, he could not get his right shoulder loose and lasted just 58 pitches in an outing against the Blue Jays before being shut down with a strained shoulder. The expectation entailed sitting for two months, and the reality has been three — plus, likely, a bit longer.
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