Kluber, Minor 'commanding the baseball'
Rangers' All-Star SPs throw sim games at new ballpark
ARLINGTON -- The Rangers were planning on a raucous sellout crowd of some 40,000 fans for a scheduled Independence Day game against the White Sox at Globe Life Field.
Instead, left-hander Mike Minor and right-hander Corey Kluber made their first appearances at the Rangers' new ballpark, pitching in eerie solitude on Saturday afternoon. Facing a handful of teammates, both pitched a simulated game during the Rangers' second official workout.
“These guys are ready to go,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “They’re commanding the baseball. I thought both guys did really well early on.”
Kluber went five innings and threw 85 pitches, including 55 strikes. Leody Taveras took Kluber deep with a home run inside the right-field foul pole in the fifth inning.
“I think Corey said at the beginning he was struggling a little bit,” Woodward said. “Once he found his slot, his command got better. He started really executing his pitches like he normally does.”
Minor went four innings and threw 77 pitches, including 47 strikes. He was supposed to pitch his simulated game on Friday, but he was pushed back because the Rangers were waiting for the results of his in-take testing for the coronavirus.
“Minor is such a perfectionist,” Woodward said. “If you watch his mannerisms out there, you’d think he wasn’t doing well. But he felt really good about it. He felt like he was in a good spot. He threw a couple of front-door changeups and punched out a bunch of guys. Just typical Mike Minor. To see the life on his ball, it just shows me that these guys are ready to roll.”
Kluber and Minor did their best to stay sharp during the shutdown. Minor did his throwing in Knoxville, Tenn., with minimal disruption, while Kluber worked out at his home in suburban Boston with an intriguing side trip to Florida.
Kluber and his family took a two-week trip there to join private workouts in Palm Beach with other Major League players. Among the 30-40 players who were part of the workouts were Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Paul Goldschmidt, Giancarlo Stanton and others. Kluber said that the timing was perfect.
“We kind of needed a break,” Kluber said. “I think the day we flew down, May 9, it snowed in Massachusetts. Luckily, we had a place to go. I never went inside; did all my work outside. They have such a good thing going down there. To have the guys I faced is kind of the norm. It's really not out of the ordinary. And we were all in the same boat. I didn't know they were secret workouts, but I guess it was."
Kluber’s outing on Saturday at Globe Life Field reinforced his belief that he is still on target to be ready for the regular season even after the three-month shutdown. With Lance Lynn throwing four innings on Thursday, the Rangers' top three starters are expected to pitch three more outings before the regular season starts on July 23 or 24.
“I’m kind of at the midpoint of Spring Training, the start of the second go-round. Having the break and so much time, I was able to get myself built up. I was able to work on stuff to the point where I was executing pitches. I got to the point where I was able to come in here and hit the ground running.”
Kluber made two starts in Spring Training and allowed a combined three runs over seven innings. Opponents were 4-for-23 off him, and he walked four and struck out six. His final outing was in a Minor League intrasquad game on March 11.
Minor also made two Cactus League starts, pitching 7 2/3 scoreless innings. Opponents were 2-for-24 off him and he threw 4 2/3 scoreless innings in his final outing on March 10 against the White Sox.
Kluber said that he expected the shutdown to be more challenging than it actually was for him.
“Once I got going, as long as I was flexible, I could still find a way to get stuff done,” Kluber said. “Whether it was working out, throwing into a backstop, things like that.”
Minor is slotted to be the No. 2 starter in the Rangers' rotation. He is expected to follow Lynn, the Opening Day starter, with Kluber in the third spot.