Kluber unfazed by early struggles in opener

Kluber unfazed by early struggles in opener

ARLINGTON -- Slow starts are nothing new for Indians ace Corey Kluber. In previous years, the right-hander found a rhythm as the season progressed, getting on the kind of midsummer rolls that have produced Cy Young-caliber campaigns.

But during Monday's 8-5 Opening Day win over the Rangers, there may have been more behind Kluber's struggles than just April rust. Early in his outing, a callus on one of his pitching fingers broke open, hindering his ability to create movement with his pitches.

"I don't want to use it as an excuse," said Kluber, who allowed five runs. "I just didn't spin the ball as well as I would have liked tonight, so I adjusted to it."

The most noticeable adjustment was the fact that he featured 58 two-seam fastballs, accounting for 53 percent of his 109 pitches. Last season he averaged 35 percent two-seamers across his 32 starts. Whereas he featured the cutter (23.7 percent) and curve (21.4 percent) last season, he threw far more curves (23) than cutters (eight) against the Rangers.

In six innings, Kluber allowed six hits, including three home runs. Rougned Odor homered off a cutter (second inning) and a two-seamer (third), and Carlos Gomez crushed an elevated cutter (third). After Odor's second blast gave Texas a four-run lead, Kluber settled down and did not allow a hit to the final 12 batters he faced.

"At that point in time," Kluber said, "it's just trying to go out there and keep the team in the game. With our lineup, if you can keep the team in the game, you've got to like your chances. Once that third inning got out of hand, I just kind of tried to take that approach."

Over his career, Kluber has a 4.17 ERA in April, his highest ERA for any month. Prior to Monday's outing, which included six strikeouts and three walks, he had gone 3-9 with a 4.20 ERA in his previous three Aprils combined.

"His line's not going to look great," manager Terry Francona said. "After he gave up the runs, he stayed out there. ... I think he deserves a lot of credit for not giving up more."

Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.