Kluber tosses two perfect frames in debut

March 4th, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. -- The thought came to on the dugout bench on Wednesday evening, after he’d breezed through his prescribed workload in a Grapefruit League contest against the Blue Jays. It was the first time in nearly two years that he’d pitched more than an inning.

Kluber chuckled at the thought, pleased to be moving further away from the injury woes that limited him to 35 2/3 innings for the Indians in 2019 and just one last year for the Rangers. This was vintage Kluber; six up, six down, three strikeouts.

“I feel like it was pretty solid,” Kluber said. “First and foremost, I think it was nice to get out there and face another team. Obviously, it was a bonus that it went well. I just want to get out there and feel the adrenaline of being in a game again.”

Kluber was surgical in a nine-pitch first inning, retiring the side on a groundout, a popout and a four-pitch strikeout of Rowdy Tellez.

“First of all, it was good to see him out there competing in a game after going through the rehab process and all that,” said bench coach Carlos Mendoza. “I thought his pitches were really good; the movement on the cutter, the slider, he threw a couple of changes. That fastball had life.”

In his second inning, Kluber fanned Danny Jansen swinging, induced a Joe Panik groundout and struck out Josh Palacios. He threw 22 pitches, 15 for strikes. His fastball was clocked between 88 and 91 mph.

“Obviously there’s going to be a point in time where you’re going to have to work out of a jam,” Kluber said. “Physically, I feel like I’m in a good spot. I don’t think that I feel like I’m out there with any thoughts of the injuries or anything I’ve dealt with in the past. In my mind, I’m in a good spot, trying to prepare for the season the best I can.”

All heart
As the Yankees watched Aaron Boone’s recorded video message before Wednesday’s game, hours before the manager had a pacemaker installed at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, Brett Gardner’s thoughts drifted to a brief interaction with the manager earlier in the week. The puzzle pieces of Boone’s procedure were beginning to fit.

“I think it was a shock to most of us,” Gardner said. “He mentioned to me a few days ago that he was tired, just kind of in passing. He asked me how I was doing and I told him I was doing great, my normal self. I asked how he was doing and he mentioned to me that he was a little tired. Looking back on it, that’s one of the reasons he probably wasn’t feeling 100 percent that day.”

Yankees first baseman Mike Ford said that the visual of Boone in a hospital bed was surprising, but the subject of his video message was “just to keep working.”

“I don’t think he wanted us worrying about him, and he wanted to be the one to tell us,” Ford said. “It speaks to his character. We’re all there supporting him, and we’re going to do what he said -- keep moving forward. We’ll get him back shortly and the train will keep rolling.”

Right side
Darren O’Day has made 604 appearances for five different franchises, most recently the Braves, and the veteran right-hander is still getting used to seeing a pinstriped Yankees uniform in his locker.

“I had a moment the other day, our first Spring Training game, when we turned the TV on and saw Aaron Judge hitting,” O’Day said. “I’m like, ‘Wow, I’m cheering for him now.’ It’s funny, just having played against this team for so long and having that adjustment here.”

O’Day said that he believes the variety of arm angles and pitch speeds in the Yankees’ bullpen will provide challenges for opposing lineups this season. O’Day followed closer Aroldis Chapman in a live batting practice session on Tuesday and could tell that the velocity change made for a tough hitting environment.

“You can’t really quantify deception, but it’s a valuable tool to have,” O’Day said. “In the season, Chappy would be throwing 100 (mph) and I’d be throwing 85. To put that in perspective, 15 miles an hour off my velocity would be 70 – that wouldn’t even get you looked at. Chap could probably throw 70 miles an hour right-handed. It’s just harder for a hitter to make that timing.”

Bombers bits
Brett Gardner (0-for-1, walk) and Giancarlo Stanton (0-for-2) made their first appearances of the spring on Wednesday.

The Blue Jays requested to play seven full innings, allowing the Yankees to bat in the home half of the seventh despite having already won the game. Robinson Chirinos lifted a pinch-hit homer to make it a 4-1 final.

Up next
The Yankees will be on the road Thursday, visiting the Phillies for a 1:05 p.m. ET contest in Clearwater, Fla. Right-hander Deivi García is set to make his first start of the spring for New York. Left-hander Matt Moore will draw the start for Philadelphia.