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Marley Riveraespan Recorder

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Marley Rivera is a writer for ESPNdeportes.com and ESPN.com.

TAMPA — Corey Kluber may be a three-time All-Star and two-time Cy Young Award winner, but he admits he is now part of a group of contenders for a spot in the Yankee rotation in 2021.

“I can see why he looks like Gerrit and everything else,” Kluber said, referring to the question marks in the Yankees’ rotation, where the only pitcher who doesn’t worry is Gerrit Cole, the $324 million team ace. “I get it. There are guys out there who don’t have a lot of experience. There are guys coming back from injuries. As a group, we can’t pay attention to that. We just have to do everything we can to prepare and be able to do a lot of things and get rid of those question marks at the end of the year.

Kluber’s use of the phrase “Gerrit and all the rest” stems from the uncertainty surrounding the Yankees’ launch staff as the 2021 season approaches. After losing pitchers Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and James A. Happ in free agency, the Yankees will have to rely on several arms returning from injury, including Kluber and fellow journeyman Jameson Taillon (UCL surgery).

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Despite a record of 98-58 and an ERA of 3.16 in 10 seasons in the majors, Kluber has struggled with injuries in recent years. In 2019, he broke his forearm after being struck by a fan. And a torn shoulder limited Kluber to one set in 2020, his first year with the Texas Rangers after being acquired via trade in the offseason.

Kluber spoke to the media after leaving his first official striped paddock this spring, saying he is well on his way to a 2021 campaign.

“I feel really good right now. Not now and not during rehab,” Kluber said of his right shoulder, where he suffered a grade 2 tear in the central teramusculus that did not require surgery. “Honestly, I would describe it as feeling like I’m in a normal place for spring training. I don’t feel like I’m working on improving my shoulder or anything like that yet.”

Kluber, one of many players who went through the questionable offseason before accepting a one-year, $11 million contract with the Yankees, praised the club as “the benchmark of all professional sports organizations.”

He also expressed his admiration and respect for Cole, who described himself Thursday as a longtime Kluber fan and called him a “true professional.”

“Gerrit’s success speaks for itself. He’s one of the best pitchers in the game,” Kluber said. “Overwhelming is the first word that comes to mind. Just as he is able to choke a lineup almost three or four times. Clearly, he has exceptional skills. But it doesn’t go beyond that. You watch him and you pay attention to how he understands pitching and how he can use these extremely impressive tricks, that he has to go out on the field and just win the lineup.”

When Kluber was asked if the beginning and end of the 2020 season was due to a shoulder injury, he acknowledged that he still did not know exactly what caused the injury.

“I wish I had the answer,” he said. “I’ve been trying to find the answer for a while, but I don’t think I’ll ever find it. I don’t think we can say exactly why it happened, when it happened and so on. I try to focus on the things I can control. I did my best to rehab, and now I’m trying to prepare for the season.

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