Red Sox move Corey Kluber to bullpen

For the second time in as many weeks, the Red Sox have moved a member of their Opening Day starting rotation to the bullpen.

During his weekly appearance on WEEI’s Gresh and Fauria earlier Wednesday afternoon, Red Sox manager Alex Cora announced that Corey Kluber would be joining Boston’s relief corps ahead of Garrett Whitlock’s return from the injured list this Saturday.

The decision to move Kluber to the bullpen comes two days after Tanner Houck put together his best start of the season in Monday’s 2-1 loss to the Angels in Anaheim. The right-hander allowed just one earned run on three hits, two walks, and one hit batsman to go along with eight strikeouts over six strong innings.

Coming off that solid performance, Houck will now get the start in Sunday’s series finale against the Diamondbacks in Phoenix. That responsibility was initially going to fall to Kluber, who has suddenly become the odd man out in a crowded rotation mix.

“We were waiting for Tanner to see how he felt after his start,” Cora said. “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.”

Kluber, 37, signed a one-year, $10 million contract with the Red Sox back in December that came with an $11 million club option for 2024. The veteran righty impressed in spring training and was named Boston’s Opening Day starter as a result.

Since taking the mound against the Orioles at Fenway Park on March 30, though, Kluber has struggled mightily, posting a dismal 6.26 ERA and 6.59 FIP with 34 strikeouts to 18 walks in his first nine starts (41 2/3 innings) as a member of the Red Sox. He allowed five runs (one earned) over a season-low 2 1/3 innings in this past Sunday’s 7-0 loss to the Padres in San Diego.

A two-time Cy Young Award winner, Kluber has only come out of the bullpen five times over the course of his 13-year big-league career. He did, however, make one relief appearance for the Rays in Game 2 of last October’s American League Wild Card Series against the Guardians.

“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,” Cora added. “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.”

With Kluber out of the picture for the time being, the Red Sox will now move forward with a five-man starting rotation consisting of Chris Sale, James Paxton, Houck, Whitlock, and Brayan Bello.

“We had that conversation with Corey and [he’s] very professional. He understands,” Cora said. “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.”

Kluber joins Nick Pivetta, Kutter Crawford, and Josh Winckowski as multi-inning options with starting experience available to Cora out of the Boston bullpen. Pivetta, of course, was jettisoned from the rotation last week to accommodate the addition of Paxton.

(Picture of Corey Kluber: Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)


Author: Brendan Campbell

Blogging about the Boston Red Sox since April '17. Also support Tottenham Hotspur.

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