Corey Kluber Is Back: Yankees Adjust Rotation

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Corey Kluber is back and scheduled to make his next start for the New York Yankees on Monday, August 30 against the Angels. He has been out since May 25 with a shoulder strain but is now recovered and ready to go. The Yankees have been scorching hot lately, winning 21 of their first 26 games in the month of August including a massive 13 game winning streak. They are playing like the best team in all of baseball right now and a healthy Kluber can make them even better than they already are.

Corey Kluber Situation

Kluber unfortunately has a devastating history of injuries in recent years. He missed almost the entire 2019 and 2020 seasons after pitching over 200 innings in each of the five previous seasons before that. The risk of being injured again is why the Yankees were able to sign him at a very low price tag of just one year and 11 million dollars. This contract may have helped influence the decision for the Yankees to get him back into the rotation as quickly as possible. They have no commitment to Kluber beyond this current season, so there is really no reason to be extra cautious with him. If the doctors have cleared him and he is ready to go, then there is no need to wait any longer.

The timing of his return is almost perfect for what the Yankees are trying to accomplish this season. He will have a little over a month, and potentially about six starts, to build his arm back up and shake off the rust as the Yankees make their final postseason push. They are currently at the top of the AL Wild Card standings and within striking distance of the Tamp Bay Rays for the AL East division lead. Ideally, if everything goes according to plan, this timeline for Kluber would have him back to peak performance for the postseason. Furthermore, with the limited innings pitched and minimal fatigue, he should be fresh and as good as ever. That is an exciting thought for the Yankees considering he threw a no-hitter for them back in May.

Yankees Pitching Rotation

Where exactly Kluber is going to fit into the rotation has not officially been announced yet but there would appear to be three different options. The first possibility is to go with a six-man rotation. This would allow for the Yankees to limit the innings pitched by Kluber and reduce the risk of getting injured again. It would also help limit the innings of some of their other pitchers who have had previous injury concerns as well including Jameson Taillon and Jordan Montgomery. The six-man rotation would, in theory, help have everyone as fresh as possible when the postseason arrives. Their ace Gerrit Cole could still continue to pitch on his normal rest, every five days as usual, like it were just a regular five-man rotation. In this situation, the other five pitchers would adjust accordingly and space their starts out a bit more around Cole.

The other two options for getting Kluber back in the starting rotation would involve removing one of the pitchers who are currently in it. The two choices are fairly obvious in either Nestor Cortes Jr. or Andrew Heaney. Cortes has done a phenomenal job filling in as a starter, pitching at least five innings in all of his last six appearances while never allowing more than four runs in a game. On the other hand, he has plenty of experience pitching out of the bullpen so the transition would be a simple one for him. Either way, Cortes has been a pleasant surprise for the Yankees this season and will be useful in either role he is assigned to. This has been the best season of his career, pitching to a 2.77 ERA and 1.09 WHIP with 64 strikeouts across 61.2 innings.

If the Yankees stick with a traditional five-man rotation, the other option for Kluber to replace is Heaney. He has been overall unimpressive in his five starts with the Yankees so far this season, registering a 6.23 ERA across 26 innings pitched. In comparison, Kluber had a 3.04 ERA across 53.1 innings with the Yankees before his injury. Statistically, replacing Heaney seems like the obvious choice but the bullpen experience of Cortes could factor into their final decision. Regardless of what route the Yankees choose to incorporate Kluber back into the rotation, they are surely glad to have him back and expect him to provide a major upgrade to their pitching staff for the stretch run.

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Adam Hulse is a baseball writer at Overtime Heroics. He is also the host of his own Podcast titled: Sports Talk with Adam Hulse