Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Resurfacing of Kluber's cutter key in shutout

MLB.com @MLBastian

CHICAGO -- As Corey Kluber warmed up in the bullpen on Friday night, Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway noticed the pitcher's curveball did not have its usual bite. Catcher Yan Gomes noticed the same. On a brisk night on Chicago's south side, it was not the sharpest pregame throwing session for Cleveland's ace.

"I don't know if he'll like me saying this," Gomes said after Kluber's three-hit shutout against the White Sox in a 3-0 victory at Guaranteed Rate Field. "It wasn't one of those where you're coming in like, 'He's got it today.' He just turns it on when he steps on the mound."

View Full Game Coverage

CHICAGO -- As Corey Kluber warmed up in the bullpen on Friday night, Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway noticed the pitcher's curveball did not have its usual bite. Catcher Yan Gomes noticed the same. On a brisk night on Chicago's south side, it was not the sharpest pregame throwing session for Cleveland's ace.

"I don't know if he'll like me saying this," Gomes said after Kluber's three-hit shutout against the White Sox in a 3-0 victory at Guaranteed Rate Field. "It wasn't one of those where you're coming in like, 'He's got it today.' He just turns it on when he steps on the mound."

View Full Game Coverage

As Kluber heated up, Chicago's bats went cold.

Video: CLE@CWS: Kluber induces inning-ending double play

During Kluber's outing, the re-emergence of his cutter was critical in piecing together his best performance of this young season. The right-hander relies heavily on a three-pitch mix that had been whittled down to two effective offerings through his first three outings. Kluber has leaned on his signature two-seamer, and kept missing bats with his diving curveball.

The cutter -- a pitch that introduces a third-tier of velocity for Kluber -- had mostly been abused by opposing batters.

"I got hurt with it a fair amount the first few times out, and didn't have a good feel for it," Kluber said. "Tonight, it was better. Obviously, if you can have four pitches working for you instead of three, especially one that you rely on a fair amount, it makes it a little easier."

In Kluber's previous three starts combined, opposing hitters posted a 1.375 slugging percentage with an average exit velocity of 94.5 mph against his cutter, according to Statcast™. On Friday night, the White Sox swung and missed at the cutter seven times (the most against any of Kluber's pitches), and put it in play four times with an average exit velocity of 81.6 mph.

Overall against the White Sox, Kluber allowed an exit velocity of 82.5 mph, which was down from 86.1 mph in his last start and well below the MLB average of 87.9 mph.

Tweet from @MLBastian: Kluber's cutter (called a "slider" by Statcast™) generated 7 swinging strikes on Friday night. Most of any of his pitches. Here's all 22. pic.twitter.com/fjFRYTvP5h

"When he has an outing like that, one pitch shows up big," Gomes said. "It's one of those things that, if they start taking, we've got to make an adjustment and start throwing it more over the plate or something. But they weren't, and he kept throwing the [heck] out of it."

The end result was an outing in which Kluber looked like himself again.

Video: CLE@CWS: Kluber handles sharp comebacker in the 1st

Heading into the start against Chicago, Kluber had an uncharacteristic 6.38 ERA after allowing at least five runs in two of his three turns for the Tribe. He quickly corrected that trend with a nine-strikeout showing that included three singles. Only Tim Anderson, who singled in the fourth and advanced to second on a wild pitch, made it as far as second base Friday.

"He threw very, very well obviously," White Sox manager Rick Renteria said. "Even getting to the ninth inning, he was still very effective. His ball was moving quite a bit, he was commanding the zone a little bit tonight and that got him through. Tough task ahead of us today, and he did what he needed to do."

On the mound, Kluber adjusted to the elements, and to Chicago's approach.

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.

Cleveland Indians, Corey Kluber