Red Sox moving former Cy Young winner to bullpen
Kluber signed a one-year deal with the Red Sox over the winter to be an arm near the top of the starting rotation, but his first couple of months in Beantown have been largely disastrous. Through nine starts, Kluber is 2-6 with a cringeworthy (and career-high) 6.26 ERA, and a WHIP of 1.53 WHIP that isn’t much better.
His 3.9 walks per nine innings would be the worst in his 13-year career (excluding 2011 and 2020 where he pitched a combined 5 1/3 innings) and his 7.3 strikeouts per nine innings are the lowest in his career. Kluber’s already surrendered 11 home runs in 41 2/3 innings pitched after allowing 20 in 164 innings with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2022.
The 37-year-old’s first (and possibly only) run as a Boston starter was bookended by his two shortest outings of the spring. Kluber got the Opening Day nod over Chris Sale and allowed five runs (all earned) and a season-high four walks in 3 1/3 innings during a 10-9 loss to the Baltimore Orioles. He allowed five runs (one earned) and had three walks against just one strikeout in 2 1/3 innings during the Red Sox 7-0 loss to the San Diego Padres on Sunday and he has just one quality start in his nine appearances.
2017 first-round pick Tanner Houck hasn’t been great either, with a 3-3 record and 4.99 ERA, but his peripherals (3.1 walks per nine innings, 8.1 hits per nine innings and 8.5 strikeouts per nine innings) have all been superior to Kluber’s. Houck is also coming off arguably his best start of the year on Monday, when he recorded his second quality start by allowing just one run on three hits with two walks and eight strikeouts against the Los Angeles Angels.
Manager Alex Cora’s club is off to a relatively successful and surprising 26-23 start, but it’s been mainly due to their offense, as they rank fourth in MLB in runs scored and in the top-10 in team batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage and OPS. Their team ERA of 4.76, meanwhile, is 25th in the league and they’re one of only two teams without a shutout all season, joined by the pitiful Oakland Athletics.
What’s made the early failures of Kluber more painful for Red Sox Nation has been seeing how well two starters from last season’s team are doing in their new cities — Nathan Eovaldi with the Texas Rangers and Rich Hill with the Pittsburgh Pirates.
“Nasty Nate” will be remembered by Red Sox fans for a long time thanks to his heroics in the 2018 World Series, and he was an All-Star as recently as 2021. He’s filled in at the top of the Rangers rotation with Jacob deGrom on the injured list and has helped Texas to a 30-18 start, good enough for first in the AL West.
Hill turned 43 in March but is still pitching effectively as a soft-tossing lefty, going 4-4 with a 4.27 ERA in his first 10 starts in Pittsburgh.
Kluber’s All-Star and Cy Young days are clearly behind him, but there’s still time for the righty to win over some fans in Boston if he can turn it around in his new role.