Kluber a workhorse even in offseason

Ace training hard, hoping Indians can 'finish it off' in 2017

February 2nd, 2017

HUDSON, Mass. -- There is a quote painted on the wall at Cressey Sports Performance in big, bold red letters that no one can miss. It reads: "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard." Underneath it, on this overcast and frozen first day of February, is putting in his work.

There is no disputing the talent. The lanky Cleveland Indians right-hander -- who features a breaking ball so tricky no one knows if it's a curve or a slider, plus a two-seamer to make Greg Maddux drool -- won the 2014 American League Cy Young Award and won two games against the Cubs in the 2016 World Series.

Photos: Kluber's offseason workout

But there are no accolades without the everydays, and today, Kluber will put in a three-and-a-half-hour training session, which I had the opportunity to participate in.

"Corey understands that what we do in the weight room is a means to an end," says Eric Cressey of Cressey Performance, who has been training Kluber in the offseason since 2010. "It's not just about lifting heavy weight or trying to impress people on social media or randomly putting a number out there that you want to hit."

Kluber has made more than 30 starts and pitched more than 215 innings in each of the past three seasons. In 2016, he added six more starts and 34 1/3 more innings in the postseason. Kluber attributes his durability, at least in part, to the offseason training he does with weighted baseballs. Though weighted balls are viewed by some as a controversial training tool, Kluber has been using them with Cressey from the get-go.

"Training with the weighted balls helps me build a solid base for my arm and shoulder strength, and it helps me to be ready and where I need to be when Spring Training comes around, so I'm not caught playing catchup," Kluber says. "The day after throwing for the first month of the offseason was always pretty tough, and I feel like my recovery from throwing is easier when I'm using the weighted balls as opposed to when I wasn't. They also keep me from getting too long with my arm action and help me to find my natural arm slot. The weighted balls just really help me to get ready for the year."

Kluber warms up his shoulder with a 32-ounce ball. Then, he does walking windup drills with an 8-ounce ball before doing most of his throwing work -- 75 or so tosses -- with a standard 5-ounce ball. His throwing partner is Royals pitching prospect , son of Red Sox manager John Farrell. Following that throwing session, Kluber goes back to the weighted balls for some more aggressive work with balls from 6 to 9 ounces, as well as an underweight 4-ounce ball.

"Just because we're making some throws with an 8- or 9-ounce ball, you can't lose sight of the fact that Corey will be making the bulk of his throws with a standard 5-ounce ball," Cressey says. "The weighted balls get all the love because they're controversial, but in reality, we still throw the 5-ounce ball more than anything else."

Afterwards, Kluber continues his training session with a workout designed by Cressey to build general athleticism; the goal is to teach the body to move efficiently, build strength, then layer power on top of that before focusing on specific, baseball-related skills.

"Every offseason, the No. 1 goal is to get things moving the way you want them to," Kluber says. "The wear and tear of the season takes its toll on your body and things get out of whack, so it's always the first goal to try to realign my body the way it's supposed to be. And once you have that, you can start working on strength and power."

Kluber is now in the third phase of his offseason program, and his workout now features exercises designed to develop power. One session featured a plyometric set that included single-leg hurdle hops; broad, vertical and skater jumps; side shuffles; and sprints. Other exercises included explosive medicine-ball throws, Turkish get-ups, inverted rows on the TRX with chains to add a little extra weight, lateral goblet lunges, several rotational exercises with cables and a particularly nasty pushup done on a slide board and known as the bodysaw. Kluber finished his workout with manual resistance shoulder exercises done with Cressey.

This offseason, for a variety of reasons, Kluber and Cressey opted to drop Kluber's lifting program from four days a week to three, with two days of sprints outside the gym and a day of arm care. Kluber is 30 years old now, and he jokes that he "feels old," but it was the extra innings he threw in 2016 that directly led to the decrease in volume. To boot, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Kluber has a tendency to get super lean, and in a world where bodyweight is somewhat predictive of pitching velocity and durability, Cressey monitors Kluber's workout volume and calorie consumption to ensure he maintains a good weight.

Once the season starts, Kluber's training volume will again drop. He typically lifts the day after a start and the day after his bullpen session, within the five-day rotation. That translates to two or three lifts per week, focusing on what Kluber calls the "money-maker" exercises: compound multijoint movements like trap-bar deadlifts and single-leg exercises such as weighted reverse lunges. The goal is to maintain the strength and power developed in the offseason, with an eye on the bigger goal: to win the World Series.

"Last year was a great year," Kluber says. "We were a game away from doing that, and now we're hoping to finish it off. Last year gave us more confidence, but now we have a target on our backs, and I don't think that's something to run away from. I think it's something to embrace. We need to go out there and work just as hard as we did to get to that point last year."

And for Kluber, that hard work started in November, here in the gym.