Thursday, March 4, 2021

Corey Kluber has a fine start but still must confront the ghost of Tulo

Congrats to Corey Kluber, the Yanks' $11 million Lotto Scratch-Off for 2021. Last night, he hurled two perfect innings - six Jays up, six Jays down - looking at ease and in command. You wouldn't guess he's thrown one inning since May Day, 2018, or that barely a month shy of 35, he'll always be a tweaked gonad away from career extinction. 

For the next eight months, this is the reality: 

At any moment, it can be over.

In the meantime, Kluber could turn out to be the second-best Yankee acquisition of this millennium. (DJ LeMahieu, two years ago, remains the best.) He could be our Game Two starter, a Cy Young candidate, even our ace - if Gerrit Cole falters. 

Or he could be the next Troy Tulowitski.

Ugh. The name. Try not to grimace. It was never Tulo's fault. The Yankees signed him in the winter of 2018-19. He was 35 and recovering from a spat of injuries that had cost him two seasons. He hoped to bridge our gap at SS until Didi Gregorius returned from elbow surgery. And that spring, Tulo raised our hopes. In Tampa camp, he tied for the team lead in HRs, with four, and hit a respectable .242. On opening day against Baltimore, he doubled, and two days later - in game two - he walked twice and hit his 225th career homer - his last, it would turn out to be.

The fear had been that Tulo could not stay healthy, and in the end, the fear won. He played five games for us, then fell apart - one tweak spilling into another. By June, it was clear he wasn't coming back. 

(Fortunately, a lesser known player stepped forward that spring. His name was Gio Urshela, and he hit .321. Of course, we all figured 3B would be Miguel Andujar's spot for the next decade, and Miggy solidified his holdings that spring by hitting .347. Funny how things turn out, eh? ) 

Which brings us back to Kluber. Seriously... last night, he looked great! If he stays healthy, there's no reason to believe he cannot buttress the rotation. The Yankees signed him on the recommendation of Eric Cressey, their "Director of Player Health and Performance," a position they didn't have when Tulo roamed the clubhouse. They are following the advice of their in-house expert, who happened to work with Kluber all winter. It's a knowledgeable move, a thoughtful gambit. 

As was Tulo. 

So, here's the deal: The Yankees hit 2021 with an aging lineup, a handful of reclamation projects, a manager on a pacemaker and a shitwad of felony-grade stress. The great blogger Mike Axisa - (formerly of River Avenue Blues, now of RAB Thoughts, on Patreon - well worth it) - recently ranked the Yankees as the team in 2021 that faces the most stress to win it all - even more than the gold-plated Dodgers. He's right. The Yankees either win a ring this year or become perennial wild cards. They are in danger of becoming NYC's third most popular baseball team. (After the Mets and Seton Hall.) 

And at any time, their number two starter could signal the dugout, call out the catcher and walk off the field with a trainer holding his elbow. 

We must root for Kluber to lift the Yankees. But we can never rely on him. Not as long as the ghost of Tulo haunts Steinbrenner Field.  


JM said...

Rubber bands, baling wire, and Elmer's glue. Your 2021 New...York....Yankees!!

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