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Peter Abraham | on baseball

It’s time to take Corey Kluber out of the Red Sox rotation

Red Sox starting pitcher Corey Kluber couldn’t get through three innings, allowing five runs on three hits and three walks in a 7-0 loss against the Padres.Brandon Sloter/Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — Is the fourth week of May too early to take your Opening Day starter out of the rotation?

Apparently so. Because Corey Kluber will make his next start for the Red Sox.

He should not. The righthander couldn’t get through three innings on Sunday, allowing five runs on three hits and three walks in a 7-0 loss against the San Diego Padres.

Facing a team that had lost nine of its previous 10 games, Kluber walked three of the first five batters he faced and committed an error to give the desperate Padres a run.

With the bases loaded and two outs, Kluber got ahead of Rougned Odor, 1 and 2. Odor worked the count full and hammered a hanging curveball to right field, driving in three runs.


“He almost got out of it,” manager Alex Cora said.

The Sox need to be better than almost.

Kluber couldn't find the handle on this Jake Cronenworth comebacker in the first inning of Sunday's 7-0 loss.Sean M. Haffey/Getty

They were one game out of a playoff spot when the game started. It’s much too early to think about the postseason but not to acknowledge the Sox as being one of the surprise teams in baseball.

Not even the most devoted acolytes of Chaim Bloom could have imagined the Sox having the third-highest scoring lineup in the game. Or how smoothly the relievers would fall into their roles behind closer Kenley Jansen.

They should honor that progress by taking Kluber out of the rotation and giving the team a better chance to continue winning.

Kluber is 2-6 with a 6.26 earned run average and 1.54 WHIP through nine starts. Opposing hitters have a .881 OPS against the righthander.

What Cora likes to call the “under the hood” stats aren’t good, either. Kluber’s two-seam fastball has dropped from 88.9 miles per hour last season to 88.1 this year and he’s allowing an alarmingly high number of hard-hit balls.


Kluber walked 21 over 164 innings last season. He has 18 in 41⅔ innings this season. That’s a flashing red light.

Everything points to a 37-year-old pitcher being on the downslope of a glittering career that includes two Cy Young Awards.

With rare exceptions, a late-career fade is inevitable and right now it looks as though Bloom made a mistake signing Kluber for one year and $10 million.

Whether it’s a move to the bullpen, a phantom stint on the injured list, or designating him for assignment, the Sox need somebody better than Kluber in the rotation.

But he remains scheduled to start next Sunday against the Diamondbacks in Phoenix.

“There’s probably some getting in my own way trying to make too many adjustments and striking a balance of finding the right one,” Kluber said.

Kluber acknowledged the walks are a problem but said there is no one reason for his uncharacteristic poor command.

“I wish there was one thing because I feel like it would be easier to make the correction,” he said. “It’s not something I’m accustomed to doing. It’s definitely frustrating.”

As Kluber struggled, former Red Sox righthander Michael Wacha pitched six strong innings for the Padres. He is 5-1 with a 3.58 ERA. Good as the Sox have been, imagine having Wacha in the rotation instead of Kluber?

Cora understands his role as the daily spokesman for the team and tries to maintain a positive vibe when he meets with reporters. But his tone Sunday wasn’t remotely cheery in discussing Kluber.


“We’re working hard with him because we know when he’s around the zone he’s tough to hit,” the manager said. “But we’re just putting ourselves in a bad spot.”

What does the future hold for Kluber?Brandon Sloter/Associated Press

Tanner Houck, who faces the Angels on Monday night, would be available to start Sunday. But the Sox will stick with a six-man rotation.

Is that for the foreseeable future?

“For the foreseeable week,” Cora said, an indication that perhaps Kluber is running out of chances.

Arizona can relate to the problem of how to handle an All-Star pitcher who is holding the team back. General manager Mike Hazen released 33-year-old Madison Bumgarner in April after he posted a 10.26 ERA over four starts.

“I ask our players and staff to have urgency around how we’re going to play and attack, and so I have to do the same thing,” Hazen said at the time.

Hazen got it right as Arizona has since stayed close to the Dodgers in the National League West. Bloom may soon need to follow that same path. He owes it to his players and staff, too.

Peter Abraham can be reached at Follow him @PeteAbe.