Yankees starting pitcher Jameson Taillon throwing in the top of the...

Yankees starting pitcher Jameson Taillon throwing in the top of the first inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at George E Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., Monday, March 21, 2022. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

TAMPA, Fla. — Like Luis Severino the day before, the results were irrelevant.

The health of the starting pitcher, in this case Jameson Taillon, was paramount.

And like Severino on Sunday afternoon, the indications in that department were encouraging.

Taillon, coming off the surgery he had in October to repair a tendon tear in his right ankle — which delayed the start of his offseason throwing program —  looked strong in a scoreless two-inning outing in the Yankees' 5-2 victory over the Phillies on Monday at Steinbrenner Field. He allowed one hit and struck out one in the 30-pitch start.

“Ankle feels good,” said Taillon, likely to slot in behind Gerrit Cole and Severino in the rotation. “I think more than anything, this first [exhibition start is]  less about working on anything too specific and just making it through healthy and throwing strikes and remembering the pace I work at and just getting back into the game flow.”

Taillon went 8-6 with a 4.30 ERA in 29 starts last season,  a year he entered with significant questions about his health because of Tommy John surgery. He  was 1-4 with a 5.59 ERA after his June 18 start, but in his next 11 outings, he went 7-0 with a 2.48 ERA.

He said he didn't feel any lingering effects of the  October surgery but added that  the ankle doesn’t feel as strong as it eventually will. He said he can't put quite as much stress on it as he will down the road.

“It's still rehab and it's still an injury that I have to take seriously,” he said. “But mechanically I feel like I'm where I need to be. I feel much more fluid with my arm. My arm feels great. Another year removed from surgery on the arm, so I feel like that arm path and stuff is much more natural now and more fluid.”

That is not an insignificant detail given Taillon’s injury past, the reason he entered 2021 with so many questions surrounding him.

Taillon, 30,  whom the Pirates chose second overall in 2010 and who had Tommy John surgery in 2014 and  August 2019, has overcome more than those elbow reconstructions. He dealt with a sports hernia that likely cost him a chance to crack the big leagues in 2015 and beat testicular cancer in 2017.

And so it was for all of those reasons – mostly related to his arm – that Taillon didn’t look at Monday as automatic. He didn’t feel “butterflies,” as he admitted to feeling before his first exhibition start last year, but he did see getting through game action as a significant hurdle to be cleared.

“I think with rehab there's just different levels, different steps,” Taillon said. “I was playing catch indoors first and I then start playing catch with cleats on and then I threw bullpens indoors and bullpens outside, and then I’d have hitters stand in and then I’d have hitters swing. So it's just like kind of a progression of every little thing adds a little bit of intensity to it. I definitely felt like today was the proper step that I needed. We'll see how I respond tomorrow, but it feels really good.”

Taillon set down the Phillies in order in the first, ending the 11-pitch inning by striking out Bryce Harper swinging  on a 94-mph fastball.

J.T. Realmuto led off the second with a single but Taillon retired three straight, getting Rhys Hoskins to foul out to the catcher, Didi Gregorius to fly softly to center and Adam Haseley to ground  to second.

Taillon’s fastball sat in the range of 91 to 93 mph and his curveball and slider were sharp.

“I think he came in ready,” Aaron Boone said. “I don't want to say ahead because it's kind of the timeline we anticipated, with everything going well and according to plan. And then right away when he got in here, we knew he was in a pretty good spot. I think he looks good. Feel good about where he's at.”

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