New York Post

Kluber’s transforma­tion into ace complete


CLEVELAND — Klubot 1.0 came to be under the broad supervisio­n of Sandy Alderson, and the Mets general manager’s response to a question about this speaks to the great heights Corey Kluber has scaled in the past decade.

“I do remember drafting Kluber,” the Mets’ general manager wrote Thursday in a text message, “but the best guy to talk to would be Grady Fuson, who was the scouting director.”

That’s because Alderson worked as the Padres’ president, overseeing both baseball and business operations, in 2007. And someone at that level doesn’t break a sweat over a team’s fourth-round draft pick, the 134th guy popped overall, who came aboard for a $200,000 signing bonus.

Now, the mere mention of Kluber’s name emits sweat from anyone not employed by the Indians. The Yankees will try to solve him Friday afternoon in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, here at Progressiv­e Field, a task they didn’t come close to accomplish­ing in two prior meetings this season.

Kluber’s Game 2 opponent, the Yankees’ CC Sabathia, was drafted by the Indians in the first round of the 1998 amateur draft. The Game 1 starting pitchers, the Yankees’ Sonny Gray and Cleveland’s Trevor Bauer, both turned profession­al after the A’s and Diamondbac­ks, respective­ly, popped them in the first round of the 2011 draft. Of the moundsmen in this series’ first leg, therefore, Kluber arrived with the smallest fanfare and neverthele­ss casts the largest shadow.

“I’m happy for him,” Fuson, now a special assistant to A’s general manager Billy Beane, said Thursday in a telephone interview. “He’s certainly exceeded most people in baseball’s goals or projection­s. He’s one of the top aces in the game.”

With a 2.25 ERA in 203 2/3 innings for the 2017 regular season, registerin­g a ridiculous ratio of 265 strikeouts to 36 walks, Kluber has put himself in a strong position to claim the second AL Cy Young award of his career. His first such honor came in 2014, when, at age 28, he made a gargantuan leap from league-average (a 99 ERA+) to elite (160). He has largely stayed in that rare air, getting Cy Young votes in 2015 (he finished in ninth place) and 2016 (third place).

“It’s been a total transforma­tion,” Indians pitching coach Mickey Callaway said Thursday, before Game 1. “He has been great.”

Fuson scouted Kluber, then at Stetson University in Florida (he was teammates there with current Mets ace Jacob deGrom), and projected “definitely a mid-range starter,” he said. “I don’t know at the time if I had ‘ace’ on him.”

Terry Francona credited Kluber’s conditioni­ng. Callaway cited his ace’s preparatio­n.

Go ahead and check “All of the above.” Kluber reminds us that aces arrive in many forms. The Yankees would rather not be reminded of that, but here comes the Klubot, armed and hopeful of terminatin­g them.

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