Sports

Kluber eager to join ‘very talented’ Red Sox rotation

January 12th, 2023

BOSTON — Corey Kluber’s wife, Amanda, is from the Boston area and the couple has maintained a home in a suburb about 10 miles north of Fenway Park for a few years.

For that reason alone, the Red Sox were always a landing spot the veteran right-hander explored. After a couple of offseasons when flirtations with Boston didn’t lead to a deal, it finally worked out this time — and just a few days after Christmas.

The deal, which was pending a physical and other procedural matters, was announced on Thursday by the Red Sox.

Though terms of the contract were not revealed, a source told MLB.com that Kluber will be paid a base salary of $10 million in 2023, with a potential $2 million in incentives. The deal also includes a club option for ’24 for $11 million.

“I think we were able to kind of get across the finish line and align to where it satisfied both sides of it [this time],” Kluber said in a Zoom call on Thursday. “I think the last couple years prior we had a lot of good conversations, and I think they got to know me and I got to know some people in the organization. Thankfully, we were finally able to get something done this year.”

Though geography worked in Boston’s favor, the 36-year-old Kluber said it was just one factor.

“I mean, it’s definitely a bonus. Last year, being in Tampa and living here in Tampa during the school year, that was a nice convenience, but now having the summertime up there will be fun,” Kluber said. “I think I really enjoy that area in the summertime. I feel like it’s a hard spot to beat that time of year. Fenway is probably my favorite ballpark in the league, just the history of it, the environment there. I wouldn’t say it was a determining factor, but I think it’s an added bonus to everything.”

A two-time American League Cy Young Award winner, Kluber hasn’t pitched at that level since 2018. In fact, staying healthy was a major obstacle in the ensuring three seasons, as he pitched a total of just 116 1/3 innings.

But last year for the Rays, a franchise that seems to revive the careers of many pitchers, Kluber bounced back with 10 wins and a 4.34 ERA in 164 innings.

“I feel really good,” said Kluber. “I think everybody has to change some things within their routine throughout the course of their career. The longer it goes, the more you probably have to change. I had to adjust some things last year routine-wise in between starts. I think we figured out a pretty good formula and I feel confident moving forward. My expectations would be to stay healthy and more of the same like [last year].”

Now that he is back on a healthy track, Kluber expects to continue his evolution as a pitcher.

“Obviously the velocity isn’t what it was six, seven years ago, but to counteract that, I think I’m a smarter pitcher than I was then, without having the ability to rely on stuff as much,” Kluber said. “I think there’s other tools you can use besides just that. I think I’ve learned better how to gameplan, how to make in-game adjustments, mid-at-bat adjustments.

“Some of that is coming from guys I’ve played with, some of that is experience I’ve had myself on the mound. Obviously there are some things that, as you age, most people decline in certain areas, but you can also gain in others as well.”

With the Red Sox, Kluber joins a rotation that includes a couple of other veterans who were among the best in the game when healthy in Chris Sale and James Paxton. Sale and Paxton hope to have the kind of improvement that Kluber enjoyed last year.

Add in the durable Nick Pivetta and a pair of up-and-coming righties in Garrett Whitlock and Brayan Bello and there is some upside — if also uncertainty — in Boston’s starting rotation.

“I think it’s a very talented group,” Kluber said. “I think those younger guys, having the chance to see them the last couple years, their stuff really jumps out at you. You hear hitters on the other side after facing them talking about how tough of an at-bat they are. Obviously everybody knows, when healthy, how tough an at-bat Chris and James are. I’m excited to get to Spring Training and get going with the group.”

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