Corey Kluber had ... an interesting day on the mound. His first two innings were excellent, such that Peter texted me at the beginning of the third saying “Night and day between this start and Kluber’s last.” Klubot then struggled in the third, so you can all blame Peter.
What’s encouraging about Kluber so far this spring is the movement and comfort on his fastball. He’s getting on in age and has pitched so little since 2018 that I was concerned about velocity, but through spring and including today, he’s sat around 91.5-92 with his fastball. That’s only about one mph less than Peak Kluber, who lived at 93. It’s possible as he continues to loosen up into the regular season that all his old velo will come back, but even if it doesn’t, I imagine he’ll be effective at 92.
The problem has largely been command, and that’s where the velo drop can really hurt a pitcher. If a guy like Gerrit Cole misses his spot, the ball is coming in at 99 with rise, so it’s hard to hit anyway. If a guy throwing 92 misses his spot, you just have less margin for error. If a guy throwing 92 can’t find the strike zone — which has been Kluber’s issue this spring — he has to come closer and closer to the center of the plate with an otherwise-underwhelming heater.
That command issue manifested in the three walks, plus hitting Didi Gregorius with the bases loaded on the first pitch of the at-bat. There’s been a lot to like about Kluber this spring:
WTF WAS THAT KLUBER? pic.twitter.com/KoYkbxZSmi— Dillard Barnhart (@BarnHasSpoken) March 28, 2021
However, looking pitch-to-pitch, there’s a lot to be concerned about too. I think you can still be optimistic about Kluber’s potential while acknowledging that we wanted to see more at the granular level.
Offensively, the team didn’t manage much. Ryan LaMarre drove in Clint Frazier with a sac fly, but that was pretty much it for the club on the day. For the second straight week, Phillies pitching flummoxed the Yankee lineup, as they managed just seven hits, with two walks against fourteen strikeouts. Thairo Estrada clubbed a solo home run in the top of the ninth to offer a little bit of late game-excitement, but otherwise, not much happened at the dish.
Mike Tauchman fouled a ball hard off his knee in the third and was replaced defensively the next inning. Hopefully, this is a precautionary move, but as I said in the game thread, the most important thing right now is that as many of The Guys We Expect are on the Opening Day roster as possible. The final spring training game comes tomorrow against the Tigers, and in the spirit of staying healthy, I hope no expected regulars get serious playing time.
That game, which will be started by Domingo Germán, comes at 1:05pm eastern from Tampa.