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Corey Kluber and the private workout conundrum

Corey Kluber impressed during his private workout and the New York Yankees came calling.

Texas Rangers Summer Workouts Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

This past week Corey Kluber held a closed session where it’s been reported that 25 Major League Baseball teams were on hand to watch him pitch.

It’s quite the drop-off from showing your wares in front of millions of people during the 2016 World Series. It was, however, an expected move from the two-time American League Cy Young winner as he attempted to show MLB scouts and evaluators that he has recovered from the slew of arm injuries that plagued his 2019 and 2020 seasons.

Undoubtedly those in attendance were looking to see if Kluber pitched like the 20114 to 2018 version of himself, when he was one of the most dominant and consistent starters in all of MLB.

In baseball years, 2018 seems like ages ago and that’s why teams remained hesitant about signing the former Cleveland star. The truth of the matter is that even though the New York Yankees did sign Kluber they likely won’t get the previous iteration of the former two-time Cy Young winner.

I’d love to be wrong, it would please me greatly to come back here and say, “Hey, I was wrong, Kluber came back and dominated”, but chances are we’re looking at another Tim Lincecum situation more than anything else.

That’s why it’s important for Yankees fans to dampen their excitement and intrigue into what happens with Kluber. The track record of elite pitchers suffering serious injuries then doing private workouts to show they have recovered from those injuries isn’t all that good.

The overwhelming majority of those pitchers wind up not being effective enough to stick around in any capacity or at the very best they end up as backend of the rotation innings eaters. There are, of course, the few who go the private workout route and do come back and perform at a high level. The hope is that will be the case with Kluber, but reality and hope do not often go hand-in-hand.

If you are a Yankees fan you must ask yourself exactly what you are looking for in the soon to be 35-year-old. If all you are expecting is a Garrett Richards-type player where he eats some innings and ends up being a good backend of the rotation guy then realistically Kluber is a pitcher you should be happy the Yankees signed. If that’s all he gives the team then he has lived up to the low expectations placed upon him. If he does come back and look like anything resembling his old self that is a bonus the likes of which every Yankees fan would welcome.

However, if you are looking at Kluber and thinking that he will come back and be the Yankees’ ace then I think you need to adjust your expectations.

As stated, he could very well be the pitcher he so recently was, but he’s more likely to be something lesser. Private workouts are always a source of endless fascination for fans. The results almost never match the fascination that went into the workouts. Right now lots of folks in Yankees land are fascinated with the idea of Corey Kluber taking the mound for their team. That fascination is good, but if Kluber struggles upon his return that fascination will quickly turn to anger and Kluber will find his comeback to be very short-lived.