Yankees: Corey Kluber punches back in Garrett Richards battle
Yankees starter Corey Kluber, one of the most stoic men in sports on the LeMahieu Scale, is locked in a battle with Red Sox pitcher Garrett Richards that’ll last the length of the season.
We’re not sure if he’s aware of such a battle, but it’s true.
For better or worse, Kluber and Richards will be viewed through the same prism this season by a pair of rivals.
Both pitchers earned one-year deals valued at similar sums (Kluber’s is $11 million, Richards’ is $10 million with an option). Both are coming off injury concerns, though Richards’ issues are far longer lasting. And one chose the Bronx first, leaving Boston to “settle” for the second option — or did they opt in?
Regardless of whether perception matches reality, Kluber was long thought to be a bounce-back target for Boston and an offseason headliner. The Red Sox were desperate for any rotation help they could get, and Kluber lives locally and expressed interest in remaining close to home.
Instead, The Bot went in a different direction, and Richards’ first two awful starts at Sox camp (one of them mercy rule’d) led to rampant questioning of the decision made by the front office to opt for the wild card.
On Friday, Richards began to right the ship and sway the narrative, striking out seven in four shutout innings for his positive appearance of the spring. Saturday, Kluber jabbed right back, failing to succumb to the temptation to struggle and rope the Yankees back into this rivalry.
The Yankees and Red Sox rivalry will be defined by Corey Kluber and Garrett Richards in 2021.
If both teams chose right, does it really matter who chose who?
The two pitchers are, in reality, very different despite their current predicaments.
Kluber is slow and steady, surviving on breaking stuff and complete command of the hitter and zone; Richards is high variance and his stuff jumps a mile a minute. Both can be very effective major league pitchers, though Richards is known mostly for missing time with various structural ailments.
Kluber? It’s fair to question his durability, but 2020 was the only season of his career brought to an end by a surgical procedure. If you’d like to argue that Kluber is prone to…being hit with liners and fracturing his wrist, then 2019 counts in your column, too. I’d argue their injury histories are quite different.
If the Red Sox return to the fringes of contention in 2021, it will be thanks to back-end additions like Garrett Richards and Nick Pivetta outperforming their expectations. So far, so bad for Richards, though he finally scored points in Boston’s column on Friday.
Slowly and steadily, Kluber struck back Saturday, landing another blow in what seems sure to be a year-long battle for educated fans of both teams.
It’s rare to be able to completely track a front office’s decision-making process, but with Kluber and Richards, Boston’s motivations were fairly obvious.
Here’s hoping the Yankees continue to “win” this invisible trade between the two sides.