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Corey Kluber off to a good start with Yankees

Yankees starting pitcher Corey Kluber throws against the

Yankees starting pitcher Corey Kluber throws against the Blue Jays in the top of the second inning on Wednesday at George M Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

TAMPA, Fla. – Everything this time of year comes with the same caveat.

It’s early.

With that well-worn cliche out of the way, it’s clear to this point Corey Kluber has answered some of the questions that surrounded the veteran coming into spring training. Or at least the ones that can be answered in March.

The 34-year-old, a two-time AL Cy Young Award winner with Cleveland who hasn’t pitched a full season since 2018 because of two different injuries, made his spring training debut Wednesday night against the Blue Jays and turned in a dominant two innings.

Kluber, who made just seven starts in 2019 before a comebacker fractured his right forearm to end that season and who threw only one inning last season before suffering a right shoulder injury, retired all six batters he faced, striking out three of them and allowing no hard-hit balls.

"I felt like it was pretty solid," the typically understated Kluber said. "First and foremost, I think it was niceto get out there and face another team. I was joking around afterward, it’s the first time I’ve gone multiple innings against a real opponent in almost two years, which is too long. So it was fun to get out there. Obviously, it was a bonus that it went well as well, but I think first and foremost I just kind of want to get out there and feel the adrenaline of being in a game again."

Kluber needed nine pitches to get through the first – striking out Rowdy Tellez looking to end the inning – then struck out two of three in a 13-pitch second. Kluber struck out Danny Jansen swinging with a 91-mph fastball for the first out of the second and struck out Josh Polacios swinging at a curveball for the third out. Of Kluber’s 22 pitches, 15 were strikes.

The righthander, signed late in the winter by the Yankees to a one-year, $11 million deal, arrived in camp understanding the health questions asked of him but said he would not be limited at all this spring.

And he has not to this point, throwing the same number of side sessions and simulated games as his fellow rotation members.

"I feel really good right now," Kluber said shortly after reporting to Tampa. "No issues with it now or anywhere along the rehab process. That's encouraging. Honestly, the way I would describe it now is I feel like I'm in a normal spot for spring training. I don't feel like I'm still working on improving the shoulder or anything like that."

Kluber is 98-58 with a 3.16 ERA in his career, including 56-20 with a 2.77 ERA from 2016-18.

Turning the Kraken loose

Gary Sanchez, who cleared the batter’s eye in center Monday against the Tigers – a rarity at Steinbrenner Field – homered to right-center in the fifth for his second long ball f the spring, which tied it at 1. Sanchez also threw out a runner at second to end the top of the fifth. Derek Dietrich, trying to make the club as a reserve, brought in Jay Bruce, also trying to make the team as a reserve, with a long homer to right later in the inning for a 3-1 lead. Bruce had two hits Wednesday to improve to 3-for-4 this spring.

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