Corey Kluber was one of the Yankees’ high-risk, high-reward acquisitions this offseason, as it’s very hard to predict how a pitcher will perform following a (mostly) two-year hiatus. That said, it’s safe to assume the team had reason to be optimistic about Kluber’s health before signing him to a one-year, $11 million deal. The two-time Cy Young Award-winner spent the winter rehabbing with Eric Cressey, the Yankees’ director of player health and performance. While Kluber had offers from multiple teams, it’s not surprising that he landed in the Bronx, considering Kluber’s long-established relationships with both Cressey and former Cleveland pitching coach Matt Blake, who joined the Yankees in November 2019.
A couple months later, the Yankees hired Cressey and replaced the team training staff after the club was plagued by injuries throughout 2019. Cressey, who holds a graduate degree in kinesthesiology and specializes in working with injured baseball players, oversees conditioning for the entire organization. His role on the team likely gave the Yankees an advantage in enticing Kluber to sign with New York.
Kluber and Cressey go way back; they have been working together for more than a decade at this point. Kluber was drafted in the fourth round by the Padres in 2007, and two years later, in 2009, he first connected with Cressey via Will Inman, a fellow pitcher and Kluber’s teammate on the Padres’ Double-A affiliate. After visiting Cressey’s facility in Massachusetts for an assessment and a few workouts with Inman, Kluber started to follow Cressey’s training program, albeit remotely, as Kluber and his family were still living in Florida at the time.
In 2010, Kluber was jettisoned to Cleveland at the trade deadline for outfielder Ryan Ludwick — a deal that the Padres would soon deeply regret. Meanwhile, as Kluber began to implement Cressey’s training regimen, Cressey was in the process of getting Cressey Sports Performance (CSP) off the ground. He had established the business in 2007 and opened the training facility’s location in Hudson, Massachusetts, shortly thereafter. CSP is an industry leader today, but back then, Cressey was still realizing his vision and establishing his brand—and so was Kluber, who was on the brink of making it to the majors. He debuted in 2011, captured his first Cy Young in 2014, and the rest is history.
Kluber and his family relocated to Winchester, Massachusetts, after he pitched Cleveland to the brink of a championship in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. In the offseasons since, Kluber has trained at Cressey’s Hudson facility. In addition to working with Cressey himself, Kluber also trains with sports performance manual therapist Chris Howard and CSP pitching coordinator Christian Wonders. The training includes exercises to improve mobility and flexibility, an individualized throwing program, and soft-tissue work with Howard.
Wonders designs Kluber’s throwing program, which takes place in the eight weeks leading up to spring training. This focus on preparedness has played a big role in Kluber’s career success, according to Cressey. Cressey elaborated on Kluber’s long-term approach to development in a November 2017 Instagram post:
Indeed, many attribute Kluber’s past successes on the mound to his durability. Now that he’s 35 and coming off an injury, that durability will be tested in the Bronx soon enough.
The Kluber-Cressey relationship has been quite fruitful. When the two men began training together, Kluber was an unknown minor leaguer who almost no one envisioned ever winning a Cy Young (let alone two), and Cressey had yet to become a giant in the world of high-level sports performance. They are both well-positioned to help the Yankees win.