Boston’s offseason signing of veteran right-hander Corey Kluber hasn’t gone nearly as well as hoped, evidenced by the 37-year-old’s 6.26 ERA through seven trips to the hill thus far. The two-time AL Cy Young winner’s 17.7% strikeout rate and 9.4% walk rate are both career-worsts, as is his 88.6 mph average fastball. Kluber is in the 21st percentile of MLB pitchers or lower in terms of strikeout rate, opponents’ average exit velocity and opponents’ hard-hit rate. His lone quality start of the season came on April 25 in Baltimore.
The Red Sox have stuck with the right-hander through his struggles, and manager Alex Cora indicated over the weekend that Kluber will make his next scheduled start on the road against the D-backs, writes Jen McCaffrey of The Athletic. That’ll mean the Red Sox will continue with a six-man rotation of Chris Sale, James Paxton, Tanner Houck, Brayan Bello, a returning Garrett Whitlock — he’s expected to be activated from the injured list for Saturday’s start — and Kluber. However, Cora declined to commit to the permanence of that arrangement (or lack thereof). Asked if that group would continue to start for the foreseeable future, Cora replied: “For the foreseeable week, let’s put it that way.”
Whether the Sox would pull the plug on Kluber’s tenure entirely or look to move him to the bullpen, as they did with Nick Pivetta, is likely still being determined by the team’s front office. Certainly, the hope would be for Kluber to right the ship and begin to make good on the $10MM contract he signed over the winter, but there’s been little in the way of positives to foster optimism.
Boston’s bullpen, in general, has been solid this season, ranking 13th in the Majors with a 3.84 ERA. However, some cracks have begun to form over the past couple weeks. Closer Kenley Jansen has begun to struggle with his command and had a recent pair of blow-ups, while righty John Schreiber hit the injured list with a lat strain last week.
Last night, the Sox further announced that lefty Richard Bleier is headed to the injured list with shoulder inflammation. After a pair of tough outings early in the year, he’d been pitching well for about a month, working to a 2.77 ERA over a span of 13 innings from April 15 to May 15. However, Bleier was rocked for five runs (three earned) on six hits in 2 2/3 innings over his past two appearances before landing on the injured list.
The Sox didn’t provide a timetable for Bleier’s potential return. He’ll be replaced by fellow lefty Brennan Bernardino for the time being. The 31-year-old southpaw, claimed off waivers from Seattle earlier in the season, has a solid 3.65 ERA in 12 1/3 frames with the Sox since they picked him up, with a hearty 55% grounder rate and 5.6% walk rate helping to offset a tepid 18.5% strikeout rate.
Though Bleier will be out for at least two weeks, the Red Sox could soon be getting healthier in the infield. Christopher Smith of MassLive.com tweets that Yu Chang is slated to head out on a rehab assignment tomorrow, and Christian Arroyo could do the same as soon as Friday. Chang has been out for nearly a month since suffering a hamate fracture, while Arroyo’s been sidelined since early May due to a hamstring strain.
That pair’s impending return will push the Red Sox into some roster decisions, as both have been outperformed by current second baseman Enmanuel Valdez, who’s batting .270/.324/.476 with three homers and three steals in 68 plate appearances. Valdez has minor league options remaining, however, while both Chang and Arroyo are out of options. Boston has also gotten solid work in an even smaller sample from utilityman Pablo Reyes, whom they acquired from the A’s in exchange for cash 11 days ago. In 28 plate appearances, Reyes is batting .296/.321/.407 (8-for-27, three doubles, one walk, four strikeouts). Like Chang and Arroyo, he’s out of minor league options.