Remind us, who does spring training matter for? Thanks for asking. There are three answers:
- Players competing for a roster spot
- Players who have been struggling and have something to prove
- Players who are bonafide starters who need to get reps/work out the kinks
That’s it. The only groups that should be judged are the first two. Any other analytical chatter reserved for category three might as well be taken out back to the dumpster.
So why are fans and pundits (some of them, not all of them), throwing New York Yankees starter Corey Kluber into one of the first two categories? He’s very much entrenched in that third group, but we keep hearing about how “this isn’t the Cy Young Corey Kluber.” What does it matter? The Yankees knew they weren’t getting that when they signed him!
Whoops! The Yankees had no idea that a soon-to-be 35-year-old who’s pitching in 36.2 innings since the start of 2019 wouldn’t be a Cy Young frontrunner?! Who’s running this team?!
Of course he’s going to have some control issues. He’s made only three starts (9.2 innings) this spring up until this point and has spent more time throwing bullpen sessions and live batting practice to refine his stuff after a long layoff.
Should Yankees fans really be concerned about ‘vintage’ Corey Kluber?
If we’re going to be concerned about Kluber not looking “vintage” after 9.2 innings of work coming off of shoulder surgery, should we worry about Gerrit Cole’s 13 hits (three home runs) allowed over his 12.2 innings? Is he no longer an ace now?
And please, ENOUGH with Kluber’s velocity. The fastest he’s averaged on his fastball was 93.2 MPH, which came during the 2013 and 2014 seasons. He’s managed to hit 93 at times this spring.
They shouldn’t! These are fake games that serve no purpose other than practice. Plus, Kluber’s fastball was never his “pitch.”
And was Tuesday that “rocky” of a start? He allowed an unearned run on three hits and three walks while striking out four across 3.2 innings. The 71 pitches probably wasn’t great, but again, this is what spring training is for! Dealing with command issues, working through them, and getting ready for the next outing.
Yankees fans simply do not need to hear that Kluber’s best days are behind him. Everybody is aware of that. But his ceiling as a reliable, veteran, battle-tested starter will come in handy down the stretch and in the playoffs for the rotation. That’s all anyone’s hoping for.
To not expect control, velocity and consistency issues in spring training after about a two-year layoff would be irresponsible on so many fronts. And to analyze any of those feels cheap too.