Corey Kluber started his introductory Zoom news conference on Thursday by declaring himself healthy.
Seven of the 12 total questions the new Yankees righthander fielded were about his health. That makes sense since the biggest question mark about the two-time Cy Young Award winner isn’t necessarily if he’ll pitch well in 2021, but how much he’ll be able to take the mound.
Kluber, 34, threw 35 2/3 innings for Cleveland in 2019 because of a fractured forearm suffered when he was hit by a comebacker and an unrelated oblique injury. He threw one inning for Texas in 2020 before getting shut down with a shoulder tear.
Kluber rehabbed the shoulder and threw a Jan. 13 showcase at a facility owned by Eric Cressey, who happens to be the Yankees’ director of health and performance. But Kluber said that didn’t give the Yankees an edge and isn’t the reason he signed a one-year deal for $11 million that was agreed to on Jan. 15 and announced on Wednesday.
“My mindset for that was to go show whoever attended that I was healthy,” Kluber said. “I didn’t have any hesitations towards throwing and I was going through a normal offseason, so to speak, at this point. I just kind of had faith it would play out the way it’s supposed to play out after that.”
The way it’s supposed to play out for the Yankees is that Kluber, the Cy Young winner in 2014 and 2017 with Cleveland, becomes at least a solid No. 2 behind Gerrit Cole, makes about 30 starts and pitches in the postseason.
At least that’s what they hope.
“Obviously, the focus is 162 games,” Kluber said. “It’s not April 1 [Opening Day]. It’s not the first outing of spring training. It’s being able to take the ball every fifth day over the course of an entire season. Aside from the last two years, I’ve been able to do that pretty good throughout my career, so I think I have a pretty good blueprint for it. But, obviously, some adjustments need to be made on my end.”
Those adjustments, Kluber said, are more mental than physical (because, remember, he’s healthy now).
“Honestly, I think that it’s probably more of overcoming the mental aspect of it as opposed to physical,” he said. “I I feel like [what] I’m working on right now — as far as getting ready for the season — is kind of getting out of that rehab mindset.”