Yankees’ Corey Kluber returns to rotation after three-month IL stint and struggles against Angels

Written by on August 31, 2021

The Yankees got right-hander Corey Kluber back from the injured list for a start against the Angels on Monday night in Anaheim — an eventual 8-7 win for the Angels (box score). Kluber, who’s been on the shelf since May 25 with a shoulder injury, struggled in his first start back: 

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Of his 68 pitches, 43 went for strikes. Kluber’s velocity was about right by recent standards, but he seemed to lose command of his breaking ball later in his outing. The blow that ended his night — a grand slam off the bat of Jack Mayfield — came on a first-pitch curve. With that outing, Kluber’s ERA for the season increased from 3.04 to 3.61. 

As for Angels DH Shohei Ohtani, Kluber struck him out twice, but Ohtani later hit his 42nd home run of the season. 

Kluber made two minor-league rehab starts prior to his return but still isn’t fully stretched out. He threw 45 pitches on Aug. 12 for Double-A Somerset and then 60 pitches on Aug. 24 for Somerset. Boone indicated Sunday evening that Kluber was expected to throw somewhere in the ballpark of 65-75 pitches Monday against the Angels. That’s what he did, albeit not as effectively as the Yankees had hoped. 

Kluber’s return means that lefty Andrew Heaney will now work out of the bullpen. Heaney has made five starts for the Yankees since coming over in a trade from the Angels on deadline day. He’s pitched to a 6.23 ERA with nine homers allowed in 26 innings. He has struck out 27. The hope is that in a relief role his stuff will play up and he’ll find a way to keep the strikeout rate while cutting way back on his longball issues. Heaney indeed “piggybacked” Kluber on Monday night and allowed two runs on three hits in two innings.

Moving forward, the Yankees’ five-man rotation is now Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon, Jordan Montgomery, Nestor Cortes and Kluber. Despite injuries, a COVID outbreak and a decent amount of shuffling, the Yankees have gotten great work from their rotation of late. Yankees starters have a 2.31 ERA in August. Getting Kluber in Heaney’s spot should only help matters. In 10 starts this season, Kluber is 4-3 with a 3.04 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 55 strikeouts against 23 walks in 53 1/3 innings. The two-time AL Cy Young winner isn’t a frontline starter anymore, but all the Yankees needed here was more depth and he’ll provide that. 

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