Every spring, the newest members of the Yankees slowly check off an assortment of firsts in pinstripes. On Sunday, Corey Kluber toed the rubber against live hitters for the first time in a Yankees uniform, a sneak peak as to what New York is hopeful to get from right-hander once the regular season begins.
"I thought he executed a lot of pitches," manager Aaron Boone said later in the afternoon. "Another good step forward in the process for him."
The two-time Cy Young Award winner only pitched in one inning last season due to a right shoulder injury. Seeing the right-hander work through live at-bats, with catcher Gary Sánchez's glove popping behind the plate, is certainly a reason to be excited about what kind of numbers the veteran can produce in the starting rotation.
Even if Kluber took a big step closer to his true Yankee debut on Sunday, you couldn't tell from his facial expressions. Just ask fellow right-hander Michael King, who has been working out alongside Kluber at camp.
"It was fun throwing bullpens right next to each other, seeing how serious he was with everything," King said. "Kluber, he's the Klubot. Wherever his pitch was, he's the exact same face. We were warming up in the weight room right next to each other. Not a single word was spoken and I'm kind of a personable guy. It was dead silent. Live [batting practice], he's locked and loaded."
Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake, who crossed paths with Kluber in the Cleveland Indians organization, said earlier this week that Kluber's intensity is just the way he goes about his business. That focus and detail is part of the reputation that Kluber built when he was one of the very best pitchers in the sport a few years ago.
"I think that the most valuable part of him that a lot of people speak to is just his consistency, his preparation and the way he goes about his work," Blake said. "He's been the model of the game for a few years now. I think that's that's really a huge piece for us."
Earlier in the week, Kluber mentioned in a Zoom call with reporters that he feels "normal" at this point in Spring Training. That might not seem particularly noteworthy on the surface, but it shows that the right-hander has put last year's injuries behind him and he's ready to contribute to New York's championship aspirations.
"I try to focus on the now," Kluber said on Friday. "The now is I play for the New York Yankees. I think all of my attention is on trying to help this team win a World Series."
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