OAKLAND -- Corey Kluber was back on a big league diamond on Thursday afternoon, the normally stoic right-hander flashing a broad grin after making eye contact with Elvis Andrus, a teammate during their brief time together with the Rangers.
Next week, the two-time Cy Young Award winner will return to facing Major League hitters. Kluber is set to be activated from the injured list and is being listed as the Yankees’ probable starter for Monday’s series opener against the Angels, manager Aaron Boone said.
“He feels really good and I think he’s ready for this next step,” Boone said. “He’s ready to take on Major League competition and go to that next level.”
Kluber pitched a no-hitter on May 19 at Texas, then he lasted three innings in his next start against the Blue Jays before exiting with stiffness in his pitching shoulder. Kluber was diagnosed with a right subscapular strain and spent months without throwing, prompting speculation that the 35-year-old’s season was in jeopardy.
Yet, Kluber has been able to return to the mound with a pair of successful outings this month for Double-A Somerset, the most recent of which came on Tuesday. Facing Akron, Kluber worked 3 2/3 innings and permitted two runs on five hits, walking one and striking out four in a 60-pitch effort.
“He’s been bouncing back from his outings well as he’s been building up here,” Boone said. “He’s not all the way built up like his full starter load, but we feel like he’s built up enough to hopefully go out and give us a few really strong innings.”
Boone said that left-hander Andrew Heaney will move to the bullpen later this week and could potentially piggyback Monday’s start with Kluber, depending on how efficiently Kluber handles the Angels. Boone said that he would consider Heaney as a sixth starter when the Yankees begin a stretch of 20 games without an off-day.
“This will give us an opportunity to see Andrew in a different role,” Boone said.
Use the force
It was not an easy call for Boone to create a lineup that left Luke Voit on the bench for Thursday’s series opener, though the manager said that decision was made with the intent to play Voit in the next three games of the Oakland series.
“The way the series lines up and the pitching matchups, this was the most logical way to go,” Boone said. “I want more guys in there; I was talking to [hitting coach] Marcus [Thames] and said, ‘I want 11 guys in there today.’ But Luke will probably be in there the next three days.”
Gio Urshela’s return from the injured list projects to impact playing time for Rougned Odor, who had started all but one game at third base during the Yankees’ 11-game winning streak entering Thursday. Odor now figures to return to his role backing up DJ LeMahieu at second base.
“Gio has been such a good two-way player for us over the last couple of years,” Boone said. “Rougie is still going to be a big part of this, but it’s definitely nice to get more hands on deck, hopefully helping us win ballgames.”
He said it
“Come on, we’re not robots. It feels a lot better coming to the park after winning 11 games than it does not playing at your best.” -- Gerrit Cole
This date in Yankees history
Aug. 26, 1960: The Yankees hit five home runs, including Yogi Berra’s walk-off in the 11th inning, to power a 7-6 victory over the Indians.