BALTIMORE — Corey Kluber was part of three straight playoff teams in Cleveland and believes some of what the Yankees have dealt with this season will help them down the stretch.
“Over the course of the year, we’ve had different moments, different types of adversity and stretches when we haven’t played our best and we haven’t backed down because of it,’’ Kluber said before the Yankees faced the Orioles on Thursday at Camden Yards.
The right-hander pointed to things like COVID-19 outbreaks, injuries (including his own strained right shoulder) that have left key players out for long periods of time and other down times.
“We haven’t backed down because of it,’’ Kluber said. “It shows the character of the guys in the clubhouse. It shows what’s important to guys.”
It has been a rocky season for Kluber, who got off to a rough start after signing a one-year, $11 million deal with the Yankees in the offseason. That came after he made just one start for the Rangers in 2020 due to shoulder and forearm injuries.
The 35-year-old bounced back with the Yankees and pitched well for a stretch in May, culminating in a no-hitter at Texas.
But just one start later — on May 25 — Kluber left with another strained shoulder and didn’t pitch for the Yankees again until Aug. 30.
He has been shaky, at best, in three outings since his return, allowing 11 runs in 11 ²/₃ innings. In none of those starts did Kluber pitch past the fourth inning.
With the Yankees’ postseason hopes on the line, Kluber will likely play a significant role in what happens in the final weeks of the season — beginning on Friday in The Bronx, when he’ll face his former team, the Indians.
Kluber remains optimistic he can regain his form in time to help the Yankees.
“Physically, I don’t feel any issues,’’ Kluber said.
But he does want to get more consistent with the precision of his pitches and to be able to “reel in misses to when I do miss [with a pitch], it’s not two or three in a row. It’s about doing a better job with pitch-to-pitch adjustment.”
Kluber said he believes he’s making progress, despite the numbers.
“The last few starts, I’ve shown flashes there,’’ Kluber said. “I need to do a better job of doing it more consistently.”
The fact he’s still dealing with issues like that this late in the season would seem to be less than ideal, but Kluber said he’s done it before.
“I would say I’ve been in this position before,’’ Kluber said. “You deal with stuff that comes and goes over the course of the season. The best thing to do is continue to work at it.”
There’s not much more time to work, but Kluber is pleased to at least be in this spot.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Kluber said. “The reason you play the game is to have the opportunity to play in the postseason and win the World Series. Having meaningful games in September, you can tell the difference. In a long season, you get to September and suddenly you have extra energy coming to the park. You can use it to your advantage or it can backfire if you don’t corral it.”