Corey Kluber was one of the many starting pitchers for the Cleveland Indians who needed to step up with the departure of Scott Kazmir and Ubaldo Jimenez this year. The Tribe is relying heavily on his arm and made it clear when they decided not to pursue any free agent pitching in the offseason. It looks as if Kluber is settling into his role as a top of the rotation starter after a superb performance against the Royals in his most recent start, tossing a complete game on only 101 pitches and earning the win.
It’s been a long road for the 28-year-old right hander, pitching in only his second full season in the big leagues. A highly regarded prospect out of Stetson University, Kluber was selected in the fourth round of the 2007 MLB Draft by the San Diego Padres.
Kluber was then dealt to the Indians in 2010 in a three-way trade which also sent Jake Westbrook to the St. Louis Cardinals and Ryan Ludwick to the Padres. He remained steady in the minor league system for the Tribe, making brief appearances in the majors in 2011 and 2012.
The 2013 season was the coming out party for Kluber, posting a 3.85 ERA and gathering 11 wins. But that was with minimal pressure being slotted as the No. 4 or 5 starter all year. The 2014 campaign will be the measuring stick to see if the Stetson product can be a top-end starting pitcher for years to come.
And so far, he has done a respectable job as the No. 2 starter for the Indians this year. After getting roughed up in his season debut against the Oakland Athletics, Kluber has gone at least six innings in each start since. This allows the Tribe bullpen to obtain much needed rest, as most of the other Indians starters have been inconsistent this year (aside from Zach McAllister).
Kluber doesn’t wow you with extraordinary stuff and isn’t known as a strikeout pitcher, but he pounds the strike zone and forces hitters to put the ball in play. Getting ahead of batters early in the count allows Kluber to use his nasty cutter and deceptive change-up to confuse hitters. This is the reason why he is able to pitch deep into games and maintain a low pitch count.
Corey Kluber will be an important factor if the Indians are to remain in the playoff picture come September. The other Tribe pitchers will need to emulate Kluber’s philosophy of throwing strikes early in counts, as walks have been an issue in the past with Indians starters. Expect Kluber to remain a constant in the Tribe rotation, just like his constant stoic demeanor.