Kluber insists knee is fine, mechanics 'out of whack'

Only three of seven runs allowed by Kluber on Monday were earned

Alex Hooper
July 24, 2018 - 12:18 am
Jul 23, 2018; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Indians starting pitcher Corey Kluber (28) delivers in the first inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Progressive Field.

© David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

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Cleveland, OH (92.3 The Fan) – It did not take long to see that Corey Kluber looked to be rusty on Monday against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Whether or not that is rust or a holdover from his knee issue that required an injection remains to be seen.

The oft-unhittable ace has struggled with arm slot while dealing with the nagging right knee, and that issue seemed to carry over to his first start in 10 days.

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Kluber went four innings, including re-emerging for his final inning after a 27-minute rain delay during the bottom of the 3rd. His line looked worse than it actually was after a botched pop up between third baseman Jose Ramirez and first baseman Yonder Alonso led to four unearned in the 2nd.

The error compounded with Kluber’s inability to locate his pitches as Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison blasted an 0-2 hanging curveball for a three-run homer to the bleachers in left field.

The main issue according to Manager Terry Francona was Kluber’s fastball command, and outside of Harrison’s home run, all the damage done to the defending Cy Young winner came on fastballs.

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That inability to locate the hard stuff was a byproduct of the man known for his routine having to alter his approach for his 10 days off.

“That is probably the worry going in,” Francona said. “He’s such a creature of habit, and his routine was different this time. He’ll be fine.”

The righty’s velocity was also down a touch compared to rest of his starts in 2018. Kluber’s sinker averaged 91.2 mph, the lowest in a single game in 2018, and one of three starts in which the pitch sat below 92. The cutter, Kluber’s main offering on the night at 31 pitches, sat at 88.6 mph on average, the 4th-lowest velo in his 21 starts.

While the numbers are indeed down, they are not so low that they indicate an outright struggle to drive off of his knee. When paired with knowledge of the preexisting condition, it would also seem like an educated guess that they are still related.

Nonetheless, Kluber would disagree with that assessment.

“That wasn’t an issue at all,” he said. “I just got to get my delivery to the point where I can make good pitches consistently. My knee was fine. I’ve been telling you guys for a little bit I feel out of whack. I’ve got to figure out what to do to kind of reign it back in and get to where I want to be.”

Kluber has shown that he is human in 2018, as his current 3.51 FIP is the worst of his career since becoming a full-time starter in 2013. His 2.88 ERA and 3.16 xFIP are still better than those of 2015 and 2016.

“He’s probably the one guy, but I don’t know if he can go the whole year at that level and not have a hiccup or two,” Francona said. “I’m not sure that’s realistic. He makes it look that way.”