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This won’t work.
This will, at best, bring the 2021 Yankees back to their 2020 ending, which satisfied no one.
The Yankees simply must get more from their newcomers (or oldcomers) than these early returns.
Jameson Taillon’s second Yankees start turned out to be a big-time dud, as the Blue Jays thumped the right-hander and his team to the tune of a 7-3 loss at TD Ballpark. Toronto ace Hyun Jin Ryu carved up the flailing Yankees’ lineup like a Thanksgiving turkey before his bullpen teammates turned the contest more interesting late … until Gary Sanchez ran the visitors out of a rally, ensuring that they fell back below .500 at 5-6.
You can hold an entire different conversation about the Yankees’ hitters, yet at some point those fellows either will honor their track records or they won’t. On the other hand, the concern about the Yankees’ starting pitchers, besides ace Gerrit Cole, stems from their questionable recent track records and the Yankees’ bet on upside over reliability.
As Taillon said of his bullpen teammates, “They’ve had to pick up some innings for starters not named Gerrit a few times.”
To be fair, let’s not pick too much on Jordan Montgomery, the Yankees’ second-best starting pitcher (after Cole) last October, who sports a 3.27 ERA in 11 innings two starts into his run and continues to combine toughness with interesting stuff. Instead, the early alarm sounds for the two imports, Taillon and Corey Kluber, and the returning Domingo German, who missed all of last year serving his suspension for violating MLB’s domestic-violence protocols. That trio has followed a collectively encouraging Grapefruit League by tallying a collective 7.48 ERA through two turns apiece, striking out 25 and walking eight while allowing eight homers in 21 ²/₃ innings.
“I feel like they’re all ready to pop, I really do,” the ever-optimistic Aaron Boone said. “I feel like the stuff’s there. But yeah, it’s hard to lean on the bullpen for as many innings every night, so I feel like we have the guys to do it and feel like they’re close to really popping.”
The missed bats in that compilation provide some encouragement. The innings, an average of fewer than four frames per appearance, certainly do not.
Taillon, acquired from the Pirates in a January trade, lasted just two outs into the fourth Tuesday. He was pounded for five runs on eight hits and a walk while fanning three. He didn’t fool too many Jays batters, as four batted balls surpassed 100 mph in exit velocity.
“I thought I got in a lot of good counts and then just didn’t use those counts to my advantage,” Taillon said, pointing to a second-inning sequence in which he hit Lourides Gurriel Jr. with a pitch, walked Danny Jansen and gave up a single to Josh Palacios, each of those with two strikes. “The whole point of getting in advantage counts is being able to make a good, tough pitch and then put them away quickly, and I wasn’t able to do that.”
As Taillon returns from his second Tommy John surgery, and after having missed all of last year, the 29-year-old of course will receive more time to work on things. Nevertheless, no guarantee exists that he’ll find enough things to thrive in either the regular season or the postseason.
The same goes for the veteran Kluber, who was signed to an $11 million contract in January despite pitching just one inning last season and will bring a 5.68 ERA into his third start of the season Wednesday afternoon in Dunedin, and the younger German, who currently resides off the team’s major league roster after clocking two poor starts (a 9.00 ERA).
That the Yankees don’t own a worse record reflects the excellence of their bullpen. In order for the relief corps to remain excellent, though, they can’t maintain this workload. Someone must emerge to join Cole and Montgomery as a reliable arm with upside.
Such a scenario would work. What’s going on now almost certainly won’t. The mission couldn’t be much clearer.
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