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Did The Tribe Win Last Night? | August 20, 2017

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Fighting for Roster Spot, Kluber Looks to Improve Strikeout Rate

During Spring Training the DTTWLN staff will profile and examine the coaches and players that make up and are vying to be part of the 2013 Cleveland Indians—A Team With A New Direction. Today, we examine one of the players on the 40-man roster that is in a roster battle to earn a spot on the 25-man roster.

By David Roberts

Spring Training is a time for players to get game day ready for the season and for managers to make tough decisions on roster spots. For Indians Manager Terry Francona, he has a great deal of choices to make come the end of camp and one of them is for the Indians’ fifth rotation spot.

One of the men vying for the position is 26-year-old Corey Kluber, who has only a limited track record of major league experience, but has shown the ability to be a winning pitcher throughout his minor league career.

Kluber is competing with Zach McAllister, Carlos Carrasco, Trevor Bauer and Scott Kazmir for one of the final two roster spots, but according to Francona, he also is a consideration for a long relief bullpen spot.

Kluber was originally drafted by the San Diego Padres in the fourth round of the 2007 First Year Player Draft out of Stetson University in Florida. On July 31, 2010, as part of a three-team deal that saw the Indians ship Jake Westbrook to the Cardinals, the Cardinals sent Ryan Ludwick to the Padres, and in exchange, the Indians received Kluber from the Padres. The following year the Indians made the young righty a September call-up as he saw some minimal action down the stretch.

In 2012, thanks to Derek Lowe’s ineffectiveness down the stretch and the injury to Josh Tomlin, Kluber was given the chance to start regularly out of the rotation. Overall, he made 12 starts going 2-5 with 5.14 ERA in 63 innings. He managed to strikeout 54 and only walk 18 but what hurt him were the opposing hitters posting a .295 clip off the young righty.

Earlier this offseason Kluber had surgery on his right knee to remove the torn meniscus that he suffered while playing with his daughter. Luckily, the surgery did nothing to slow the 6’4” 215-pound righty from being ready to go for Spring Training.

Kluber has the kind of minor league numbers that you would think would translate into a successful big leaguer. He has the ability to throw heat with his fastball sitting around 92-93 mph range and he showed ability to strikeout hitters at quite a clip in the minors but he has had trouble translating that success at the major league level.

Throughout his career, hitters have always had a decent success hitting off of him but in his brief time in the majors, big league hitters are hitting at a clip 30 points higher than his numbers in the minors. This is obviously going to translate to more trouble for the young righty as evidenced in his early big league time.  Nevertheless, if he can find a way to step up his strikeout ratio and miss more bats he should be able to translate the minor league success into quality major league innings.

In the early going in Arizona, he has made three appearances logging seven innings to the tune of a 6.43 ERA. Although his latest outing against the Dodgers on Sunday he logged three scoreless innings allowing four hits and striking out two. It may be a tall order for Kluber to crack the roster for Opening Day especially since he still has options left in the minor leagues but it he could be one of the first calls from Triple-A if someone falters on the big league club.

Photo: Chuck Crow/Cleveland Plain Dealer