Struggling Kluber will move to relief role for Red Sox
7:00 PM UTC
ANAHEIM — The Red Sox have solved the overflow in their starting rotation by moving veteran righty Corey Kluber to the bullpen, manager Alex Cora announced in his weekly radio segment with WEEI on Wednesday.
The news comes on the heels of Nick Pivetta being moved to the bullpen last week to open a slot for James Paxton.
With Garrett Whitlock set to return from the injured list on Saturday, another move needed to be made — hence the decision to move the struggling Kluber (2-6, 6.26 ERA) to the ‘pen.
Tanner Houck turned in one of the best starts of his career (six innings, three hits, one run, eight strikeouts) on Monday night against the Angels, leaving Kluber, a two-time AL Cy Young Award winner, as the odd man out. Cora had said after Kluber’s latest rough outing on Sunday in San Diego that he would make another start on Sunday.
“Well, we were waiting for Tanner to see how he felt after his start,” Cora told WEEI. “We’re going to make a change. Actually, Tanner is going to start on Sunday and Corey is going to go to the bullpen, starting on Friday.”
When the Red Sox signed Kluber to a one-year, $10-million deal in the offseason, the idea was that he would be a dependable piece of the rotation who could keep them in games. Instead, Kluber’s command has betrayed him.
As the Red Sox were waiting for other pitchers in their rotation to get healthy, Kluber was the club’s Opening Day starter. His problems started that day, as he gave up five runs and four walks in 3 1/3 innings against the Orioles.
Boston’s rotation will now feature two lefties who have returned to form after years of battling injuries in Chris Sale and Paxton, and also the young and promising trio of Brayan Bello, Houck and Whiltock.
“We had that conversation with Corey and [he’s] very professional. He understands,” said Cora. “He signed here to be a starter, but right now he’s struggling and, you know, obviously the kids are throwing the ball well. There’s a lot of off-days coming up. So we decided to make the change.
The Sox hope they can get Kluber right in a role that is unfamiliar to him. Kluber has made five regular-season bullpen appearances in his career, but none since 2013. Kluber pitched once in relief in the postseason in a game against the Guardians last October.
“Well, we’ve been doing it for the last two or three years having starters in the bullpen, and some guys we use more aggressively,” said Cora. “Others we’ve got to be patient, and the case with Corey, I think he came out of the bullpen last year in the playoffs, but he hasn’t done it throughout his career.
“We’ve just got to make sure we give him enough time to be ready and see when we are going to use him. Obviously, we want him to get back on track, and back on track is throwing strikes, and this is something that he’s done throughout his career. He hasn’t done it the first month and a half [this] season. The stuff is … very similar to last year, but obviously the control and the command wasn’t there and we just got to make sure we keep making adjustments.”
The Red Sox are currently 26th in the Majors in starters ERA (5.36) but the group has trended upward in recent weeks.
With the current five-man group, the Sox (26-23) are hoping to turn the rotation from a weakness to a strength.