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Kluber dominates lineup of Angels regulars

Special to MLB.com

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Corey Kluber's dominance can be most brutal to hitters who aren't accustomed to the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner's late movement and assortment of secondary pitches.

Just look at the final batter Kluber faced in Wednesday's 7-0 win over the Angels: Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani.

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GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Corey Kluber's dominance can be most brutal to hitters who aren't accustomed to the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner's late movement and assortment of secondary pitches.

Just look at the final batter Kluber faced in Wednesday's 7-0 win over the Angels: Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani.

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With two outs in the fifth inning, Kluber started Ohtani by catching the corner low and inside. Then he made the slugger swing and miss badly at an 87-mph breaking ball low and in. The third pitch, a high cutter, cracked Ohtani's bat and resulted in a softly hit popup that was easily brought in by second baseman Jason Kipnis.

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Over five scoreless innings, Kluber faced 16 batters -- one over the minimum -- allowing one hit and three baserunners while striking out four on 56 pitches. He threw 15 more pitches in the bullpen as he looks to continue building his volume of pitches before Opening Day.

"He was so economical, we had to send him out to the bullpen," manager Terry Francona said. "He was good. He is so good about his progression. Every outing, he gets a little sharper, gets a little deeper. It's really fun to watch."

"Obviously, you want to feel good throughout your delivery and try to iron out things like that," Kluber said of his progress this spring. "I wouldn't say it's just building up the amount you throw. I think that's one of the important things, but I think you're also working on commanding all your pitches, things like that.

"I think I'm right on track with where I want to be."

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Kluber faced a lineup full of Angels regulars -- including Ohtani, former AL MVP Mike Trout, Justin Upton, Albert Pujols and Kole Calhoun, who recorded the club's lone hit off Kluber with a dribbler through the hole in the second inning -- handling the group well and inducing eight swings and misses.

Just four balls in play even left the infield, including back-to-back flyouts by Ian Kinsler and Trout to open the game.

"It was pretty close to their regular lineup, so I don't want to say that you don't treat it the same when it's not like that, but I think you just naturally get a little bit more adrenaline going," Kluber said of facing the regulars. "When I'm facing close to their everyday lineup, if not their actual everyday lineup, it just naturally helps. It's good to keep working on that."

Kluber faced trouble just once, when a hit batter, a walk and a runner advancing on an infield fly rule gave the Angels runners on the corners with one out in the third inning. He would get out of it, catching Kinsler out in front of an offspeed pitch and inducing an inning-ending double play.

Video: LAA@CLE: Kluber induces a DP to strand a pair

"The third inning was pretty bad [command-wise], but other than that, it was OK," Kluber said. "I just got really quick to the plate, and couldn't really make the adjustment. I guess that's a positive you can take out of it, you get in that situation and you're one pitch away. It was ugly, but I found a way to make that one pitch.

"I think that days like today where you don't feel like you really are in a good rhythm or in sync, you get to work on making those adjustments in-game."

"It was really fun to watch him self-correct," Francona said. "He breezed through, like, seven [batters] in a row [after], and he figured it out."

Fabian Ardaya is a contributor to MLB.com.

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