TAMPA, Fla. — Talk is cheap at this point of the baseball schedule, but words will carry weight from two of the most significant 2021 Yankees. Any team that features both
With Kluber and his “Klubot” alter ego joining LeMahieu’s “The Machine” in pinstripes, the Bombers boast two of the league’s most focused competitors. It is all business for both players, carrying the common goal of playing to their potential and bringing a World Series championship back to New York.
“I don’t think I’m ever going to be the most vocal person in the room,” Kluber said. “Like most people, the more comfortable you get in a situation, the more you open up. I think that’s part of team-building; one of the things about Spring Training that’s a little different now [due to COVID-19]. It’s important to build that clubhouse culture.”
Thus far, the Yankees are excited by what they have seen from Kluber, who said that his right shoulder has given him no issues. Kluber missed most of last season with the Rangers due to a torn teres major muscle in his right shoulder. He said that he no longer feels as though he is rehabbing; rather, Kluber is preparing as though he normally would at this point of a season.
“I’ve had no issues with it now or anywhere along the rehab process,” Kluber said. “That’s encouraging. Honestly, I don’t feel like I’m still working on improving the shoulder or anything like that. I think it’s in a spot where, like any part of your body, it takes maintenance throughout the year. But I’m not putting any more emphasis on that than I am anything else at this point.”
That allows the Yankees to dream on a front three of the rotation that could be comprised by Gerrit Cole, Kluber and Jameson Taillon, with Luis Severino expected to return at midseason. A two-time American League Cy Young Award winner, Kluber turns 35 in April and is two years removed from a 2018 season when he went 20-7 with a 2.89 ERA in 33 starts for the Indians.
Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that there have already been internal comparisons made between the personalities of Kluber and LeMahieu, the latter of whom has been the club’s most valuable player in the past two seasons.
“When we started down this road with Corey, you start diving into a guy’s makeup,” Boone said. “Some of those comparisons were naturally uttered because of DJ being here. There probably are some similarities. I like to think that as much as those guys are the ‘Klubot’ and ‘The Machine,’ they’re low-key in certain ways. But they’re also guys that when you get in there, they’ve got some really neat personalities.”
Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake previously served as an organizational pitching coordinator with the Indians, where all but one of Kluber’s big league innings have been pitched. Blake described Kluber’s mental approach toward pitching as “very concise and efficient.”
“If you have direct questions for him, from my standpoint, he’s very personable,” Blake said. “We can relate a lot on the pitching level, dating back to some time and people we’ve shared experiences with. I think the most valuable part of him that people speak to is his consistency and his preparation. He’s very focused and detailed. That’s going to fit right in here.”
Yes, Kluber has heard the “Klubot” nickname a few times already from teammates; it’s not his favorite, but he doesn’t mind.
“I wouldn’t say I dislike it; I just think that it was maybe a little bit overplayed initially [in Cleveland],” Kluber said. “I wouldn’t say I’m against it. It doesn’t really make a difference to me, honestly.”
More importantly, Kluber said that his first few days in pinstripes reinforced his belief that he has joined a first-class organization, one that will provide an opportunity to be the last team standing in October.
“There’s some guys without a lot of experience; there’s some guys coming back from injury,” Kluber said. “As a group, we can’t pay attention to that. We just have to do the best job of preparing ourselves and being in position to pitch a lot. That will take away those question marks at the end of the year.”