Corey Kluber did not live up to his reputation his first start with the Red Sox.
No, Boston didn’t sign the veteran right-handed pitcher with illusions that he would, at 36 (soon to be 37), be the same pitcher that won two Cy Young Awards earlier in his career. What the Red Sox did expect was the strike-throwing machine Kluber has been in recent years.
His first start for the Red Sox pretty much was the antithesis of that expectation. Kluber didn’t make it out of the fourth inning, allowing five earned runs on six hits including a pair of home runs. The surprise, though, came in the form of Kluber’s four walks.
Kluber walked four just once last season, and that very much was an outlier. He walked just 21 batters the entire season. His 3% walk rate was the lowest of his decorated career, and it was the lowest single-season walk rate of any pitcher in Tampa Bay Rays history. Kluber, for the third time in his career, led the league in walks per nine innings.
It’s worth at least considering whether the weather, specifically the ability to grip the ball, played some sort of role in Kluber’s performance. The game-time temperature at Fenway Park was 38 degrees. Kluber’s feel pitches — notably his changeup and sweeper — were thrown in the strike zone just 45% of the time Thursday.
The encouraging thing for Kluber and the Red Sox? He also walked four in his first start a season ago and issued just four free passes total over his next nine starts, a 46-inning span.
Kluber is expected to get his first chance to bounce back Tuesday against Pittsburgh.