Yanks newcomer Kluber takes another step after 2 lost years


TAMPA, Fla. — Corey Kluber overcame occasional wildness, allowing two runs and four hits over four innings in his second start, and the New York Yankees beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-5 on Saturday.

Kluber is a two-time Cy Young Award winner with his third team in three years. He has thrown one inning since being hit on the right forearm by a comebacker in May 2019, none since tearing a muscle in his right shoulder in his Texas debut last July 26. That injury ended his season after one inning.

Kluber hit two batters, threw a wild pitch and allowed a third-inning solo homer to Troy Stokes Jr. He struck out two in an outing when the Pirates went down in order just once.

“Some pitches, probably, could have been located a little better, been a little sharper” Kluber said. “The home run, first pitch, left it a little too much over the plate. Definitely some stuff to work on. Fine tuning location, things like that.”

“I was happy with the way I felt physically,” he said.

The right-hander allowed a leadoff double and hit a batter in the first inning but got out of the jam with a double play. After a perfect second, Kluber gave Stokes’ homer and then avoided further damage by working out of a two-on, one-out situation.

Kluber, who turns 35 in April, struck out three over two perfect innings in his other start on March 3 against Toronto. He had a live batting practice session five days later.

After losing to the eventual AL champion Tampa Bay Rays in a five-game Division Series last year, the Yankees allowed Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ to become free agents. They signed Kluber to an $11 million, one-year contract and acquired Jameson Taillon from Pittsburgh for four prospects.

“Looks like himself,” Yankees second baseman DJ LeMahieu said, “Ball’s moving all over the place.”

New York’s projected rotation also includes ace Gerrit Cole and Jordan Montgomery. Deivi García and Domingo Germán are among the candidates for the fifth starter spot.

NOTES: Pirates C Tony Wolters struck out swinging on a pitch from Darren O’Day that hit him in the sixth. Wolters went down to the ground after being struck by the waist-high pitch before walking back to the dugout. “It’s a hard game, it really is,” O’Day said. “I’m not going to gloat about it.”… New York closer Aroldis Chapman, who worked a perfect fifth, has found success throwing his split-change. “Really good results,” manager Aaron Boone said. … LeMahieu will get playing time at third and first base before the team breaks camp. … Yankees OF Aaron Hicks had a bunt single in the third that hugged the foul line until it hit third base. Hicks put both his arms over his head after seeing the ball stay fair. … Pittsburgh OF Anthony Alford appeared to get hit around the hand by Kluber in the fourth and left the game.

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