DUNEDIN, Fla.— Another day, another short outing by a Yankees starter.
Corey Kluber lasted just four innings in Wednesday’s 5-4 loss to the Blue Jays at TD Ballpark.
He allowed three runs — and two homers — and needed 77 pitches to get through the outing.
While Kluber and manager Aaron Boone still sounded encouraged by the right-hander’s performance, his early exit forced the Yankees to go to Jonathan Loaisiga to start the fifth and to require more length from an already taxed pen.
“I thought his stuff was fine,’’ Boone said of the 35-year-old Kluber, who signed a one-year, $11 million after missing most of the last two seasons with a fractured forearm and then a shoulder strain. “I feel he continues to get close to where he needs to be.”
He has pitched just 10¹/₃ innings over three starts and walked seven.
Kluber called the outing “a step in the right direction.”
“I’m as frustrated as everybody with the results on the scoreboard, so to speak, but I can tell things are going in the right direction,’’ Kluber said.
The veteran said his “stuff is getting better, location is getting better and the amount of misses over the course of a game is getting less and less. The mistakes I am making, I am paying for. I don’t expect to get away with them.”
He allowed multiple baserunners in each inning before being removed before the fifth.
“You can only pitch as long as they let you,’’ Kluber said.
Asked if he made a case to stay in the game after the fourth, Kluber said, “I don’t feel that’s my position. I felt my job is to pitch as long as you can and when they go to the pen, that’s the end of it. I don’t feel it’s my position to argue.”
More efficiency would help, as a 23-pitch first inning put Kluber in a bad spot.
“I think Corey, at his best, it’s movement and precision,’’ Boone said. “He has to get over the final hump.”
After the game, the Yankees optioned reliever Albert Abreu to the alternate site.
“We’re doing OK,” Boone said of the pen, pointing to the added off days in April that helps protect them.
“The entire bullpen has played a role and we’ve relied on guys equally to share the load,’’ Boone said. “But as you go later into the month and May and the summer, you’ve got to lean on your starting pitchers to get you deeper into games.”
Kluber said he didn’t think the starters were putting pressure on themselves to give length to the rotation, which only Gerrit Cole has provided.
“I don’t sense it,’’ Kluber said. “Most guys are two turns through the rotation — a couple guys three [times]. I don’t think there’s any sense of pressing.”