CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – There were no words to describe the abrupt redirection of Corey Kluber’s season and how it ended. There are not many reasons it could have happened the way it did.
As Kluber struggled to his second outing of the postseason that spanned less than four innings on Wednesday, it became apparent that what Manager Terry Francona had hinted at the night before may be true.
His star was again dealing with a debilitating back injury.
Kluber missed 26 games – good enough for five starts – from May 2nd to June 1st with the injury, but no indication of it resurfacing until Game 2 of the ALDS on October 6th.
When Kluber began missing his spots by relatively wide margins in Game 2, it seemed as if it were an issue of mechanics, something Francona referenced Tuesday night.
Though there was an improvement on Wednesday in Game 5, the remnants of that apparent issue showed. His cutter got yanked over the middle of the plate, his breaking ball was not finished low in the zone, his sinker stayed up.
Kluber admitted to such in terms of location on the two crucial home runs by Didi Gregorius.
“Just yanked two pitches, trying to go fastball away, and yanked it middle-in,” he said. “Kind of same with the breaking ball. Trying to backdoor one, and he did a great job of going and getting it before it breaks.”
What Kluber would not admit was any sort of ailment. The righty refused to acknowledge anything specific, as expected by any athlete, let alone the seemingly emotionless Kluber.
His answers were simply generalities and non-denials, saying that all athletes are banged up late in the season and that he was not 100 percent.
Francona was a bit more forthcoming.
“I think he’s fighting a lot, and I think you also have to respect the fact that guy wants to go out there and he’s our horse. And sometimes it doesn’t work,” the manager said. “I just thought quickly, his stuff was starting to trend down. Even the last inning, he got a strikeout on a hanging breaking ball. Just wasn’t the normal, crisp — especially the movement. A lot of pitches were flat.”
Kluber was made aware of his gaffer’s remarks moments later during his own press scrum, remaining staunch in his denial.
“I don’t think we need to get into details about anything,” he said. “I was healthy enough to go out there and try and pitch.”
Technically, yes. Kluber was healthy enough to be a pitcher in a Major League Baseball game, but his failure to directly address his issue seemed to tip that he was not healthy enough to be Corey Kluber.