The St. Louis Cardinals debacle at Fenway Park is now firmly in the rearview mirror following two straight series victories over the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres. Josh Winckowski and Kenley Jansen seem to have bounced back nicely, as has the Red Sox offense. A challenging west coast trip continues this week against the Angels and the Diamondbacks, two more teams with a whole bunch of talent. And after what should be a three-game layup series with the Reds upon Boston’s return to Fenway on May 30th, it’s not going to get much easier for awhile.

After the Cincinnati series, it’s four games with Tampa Bay and three in Cleveland. And for six of the next nine games thereafter, THE rivalry is rekindled. Three games in Yankee Stadium, a three-day break against the Rockies, and then the Stripes make their first Fenway trip of 2023.

We’re still a long way from the dog days of summer, but the competition is heating up. In fact, the AL East is completely on freaking fire. We’ve reached the point where old adages like wait and see and it’s a long season begin to fall on deaf ears. It’s time to field a team that can run the gauntlet of a brutal division and potentially make a playoff run. There’s no more time for hangers on or guys that brim with potential but haven’t shown any this season.

We’ve moved on from the Bobby Dalbec experiment (hopefully for good). Ryan Brasier was not only designated for assignment, he was released outright upon clearing waivers. Nick Pivetta has been ushered to the bullpen. Richard Bleier has been placed on what may or may not be a phantom IL stint.

The Red Sox are trimming the fat, but there’s still one unsightly wad of blubber dangling over the belt of this team that must be cut away.

That wad of blubber is named Corey Kluber.

I don’t say that to slur the horizontally challenged. Kluber is clearly in great physical condition, but he is a 37-year-old starting pitcher who can’t break 90 mph with his fastball. With his mediocre stuff, you need pinpoint control in order to be effective at the MLB level. And Kluber’s control is the exact opposite of pinpoint. 

In his most recent start on Sunday in San Diego, he surrendered four runs in the first inning alone. Only one of those runs was earned, due to an error that was committed in the middle of the Padres’ rally; an error that was committed by Kluber. He walked three guys in the inning and gave up only one hit, a bases clearing double to Rougned Odor, a guy I didn’t realize was still in the Majors and who was hitting .151 going into the at-bat.

Kluber’s final stat line smelled. 2.1 innings pitched, five runs (only one earned), three hits, one strikeout, three walks, one error. 

The worst part about Kluber’s latest effort is that it was in no way unexpected. He has been dreadful ever since he first dawned a Red Sox jersey. Chaim Bloom brought him in to be a reliable arm that would throw strikes and give five competitive innings per start. I disagreed with the acquisition from the beginning because I didn’t expect him to stay healthy for more than a couple months. I was wrong. His body has held up fine. It’s his pitching that has been incredibly lame. 

Lest you forget, Corey Kluber was Boston’s Opening Day starter. He got the season off to a horrible start, giving up five earned runs to the Orioles in 3.1 innings. His eight starts since then have mostly wavered between poor and horrendous, resulting in a 6.26 ERA, 11 home runs (at least one in every start until Sunday), and 3.9 BB/9, nearly double his career average. 

Of all the things Kluber has done poorly this year, the walks have been the biggest kick in the rectal cavity. The one thing we were supposed to be able to count on him for was the ability to put the ball over the plate. He walked a grand total of 21 hitters in 164 innings last year, his first full season since 2018. He has already walked 18 men in 41.2 innings in 2023. 

He doesn’t throw hard, he doesn’t throw strikes, he doesn’t eat innings (4.6 IP per start), and he’s hurtling toward the end of his career. Can anybody think of one thing that he is bringing to the table for the Red Sox?

Back in early April, I thought that Kluber could potentially thrive in a bullpen role, ramping up his velocity to 92 or so for an inning or two of middle relief. But if he can’t even get the ball over the dish throwing 88 mph, why even waste the effort? With Nick Pivetta relegated to the pen last week, the Red Sox already have a veteran reliever who can step in for spot starts in the event of an injury. They also have Josh Winckowski and Kutter Crawford, two young swingmen with high ceilings who have shined in relief roles this year. 

Kluber, who hasn’t pitched in a relief role in ten years, is nothing more than dead weight. 

A glass-half-full fan could look on the bright side and see this as Kluber doing the Red Sox brass a favor. With Garrett Whitlock returning from injury (again) this week, they will have one too many starting pitchers on the roster. 

Chris Sale has been stellar, recalling memories of the dominant lefty we saw in 2017 and 2018. 

Brayan Bello, the golden child the organization is grooming to be the ace of the future, has shown top-notch stuff and budding maturity in his last four starts, all of which came against 2022 playoff teams. 

James Paxton, a former ace with a 97-mph fastball, has shocked us all by pitching brilliantly in his first two starts since a layoff of essentially three years.

Garrett Whitlock has a strong four-pitch mix that profiles him as a solid number three starter. 

Tanner Houck can dominate any team once through the lineup before being inevitably tagged in the fourth or fifth inning (and he just dazzled the Angels for six great innings Monday night). 

For those of you scoring at home, that’s five starting pitchers that have either a strong pedigree or strong upside as starting pitchers. Kluber is not only on the back nine, he’s been completely awful. You are not preparing him for a bright future, and there’s no reason to think he’ll turn things around in the present. And while the starting five listed above are loaded with injury concerns, there are also three starting pitching options in the bullpen for the sake of redundancy. 

Sunday afternoon, Alex Cora declared that Kluber will make his next scheduled start on Saturday in Arizona. He has not been booted from the rotation as of yet. However, realistically speaking, Corey Kluber has no role on this team. Continuing to put him on the mound is a disservice to the Red Sox and their fans. His issues, in my opinion, cannot be rectified by way of skipping a start or putting him on the IL for a couple weeks. He’s an ineffective elder statesman on a one-year contract for $10 million.

He’s the starting pitching version of Ryan Brasier; a man of little use and even less status. 

It’s time to move on from Corey Kluber. 

By Luke

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