CLEARWATER, Fla. — The 2021 Yankees rotation has come to order.
To start the season, at least.
Before Corey Kluber took the mound Sunday afternoon against the Phillies for his final regular-season tuneup, Aaron Boone disclosed the team's rotation plans for the opening week-plus.
Gerrit Cole, obviously, will start Thursday’s season opener against the Blue Jays at the Stadium. Boone said Kluber will pitch in the second game of the three-game series against Toronto on Saturday. That was expected, too.
Then came a slight curveball.
Domingo German, coming off an 81-game suspension for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy in September 2019 and electric much of spring training, will start the third game against Toronto and will be followed by Jordan Montgomery, who will open a three-game series against Baltimore at the Stadium on April 5. Cole will go on regular rest a day later, with Jameson Taillon, solid to terrific throughout spring training, making his Yankees debut April 7.
"That's just kind of the order I wanted to do it, frankly," Boone said. "It gives us an opportunity to slow-play J-Mo [Taillon] a little bit. We feel like he's in such a good spot physically, but with the off days that we have in April, we just want to be mindful of building these guys up properly.
"We feel like a sixth starter is going to factor in at least once, maybe a couple of times in the month of April. And by doing it this way, we keep our guys as much as possible on that kind of five- and six-day [rest], sometimes seven-day, but trying to also avoid guys going on the ninth or 10th day, with different off days. This kind of lines that up the best while also putting a little bit of drag on J-Mo, to make sure we're building him up properly and safely."
Taillon, who is coming off the second Tommy John surgery of his career (in August 2019), is healthy, by all accounts, and the Yankees want to keep it that way. Coming off last year's COVID-19-shortened 60-game season, worries about pitchers’ overall workloads, and the impact it could have in terms of injuries, is the No. 1 concern among teams. Those concerns are double with Taillon, who didn’t throw a pitch in 2020 and threw only 37 1/3 innings in 2019.
"I’ve known about this schedule for a while, it’s something that they ran by me probably a couple of weeks ago, so I'm totally on board with it," Taillon said. "We've discussed not putting a hard innings limit or anything on me, but at the same time, it comes with the understanding of early in the year, let's just get creative and see if there's a way to maybe save some bullets, ease into the year, ease into the cold weather, ease into the competition."
Taillon reiterated that he feels physically strong and that no innings limit has been discussed. The Yankees, however, probably would sign on the dotted line if they could be guaranteed that Taillon would give them 120-plus.
"We're just going to conserve some bullets and just really build into that competition," Taillon said. "So I'm on board with it — how the rotation starts, how it ends and lines up and all that. So with off days and Gerrit being the guy who can take the ball every fifth day, I mean, more power to him. We're lucky to have a guy like that who can take the ball and go out there. I'm in on it, and I’m excited for whenever my name is called."