The Yankees entered spring training with two pitchers at the top of their priority list: Jameson Taillon and Corey Kluber. Seeing them healthy and productive after being almost entirely absent in 2020 would go a long way toward building confidence in the team’s rotation.
Taillon has done his part so far, and while he wasn’t at his sharpest during his Friday start against the Tigers, he still kept them off the board. He worked around two walks and a double by Wilson Ramos to get through the first two frames unscathed, then walked Robbie Grossman and gave up an infield single to Jeimer Candelario to lead off the third. Taillon fanned Willi Castro and got Miguel Cabrera to hit a popup in back of first base.
Unfortunately, Jay Bruce couldn’t corral it in the sun and the ball dropped off his glove to load the bases. Once again, Taillon recovered, striking out Niko Goodrum. Since he was up to 51 pitches, that ended his afternoon after 2.2 innings. Reliever Addison Russ got the final out to escape the jam (his lone batter of the day). Opposing teams have yet to score off Taillon in 5.2 innings this spring.
Taillon’s fastball hovered around 94-95 mph and though occasionally shaky, his hook looked good while whiffing four batters:
At the plate, the Yankees did just enough against Tigers starter Julio Teherán. He retired the side in the first, but led off the second by loading the bases on a Derek Dietrich hit-by-pitch (surprise) and singles by Kyle Higashioka and Mike Tauchman. Thairo Estrada bounced into a fielder’s choice at home for the first out, but Tyler Wade and Brett Gardner made sure that Teherán wouldn’t get into any other reprieves.
Wade hit a sacrifice fly to score Higashioka, and Gardner laced a single to center to make it 2-0:
Gardy goes up the middle for the RBI single pic.twitter.com/1z8GAjG6Rw— New York Yankees (@Yankees) March 12, 2021
The offense was mostly quiet after the second though, as Teherán threw a scoreless third and José Ureña dominated the Yankees across three perfect frames. Clint Frazier, Gary Sánchez, and Dietrich had tough days, as they combined to go 0-for-8 with 4 strikeouts.
The Tigers scored in the fifth off Albert Abreu. The 25-year-old continued his rough spring by allowing a Candelario double, a Castro single, and a sacrifice fly from Old Man Miggy. Gardner had to make a nice leaping play in right just to keep the drive from being a double. It almost got worse as Abreu uncorked a wild pitch to put another runner in scoring position, but he struck out Goodrum to finish the inning.
Bullpen contender Kyle Barraclough nearly imploded in his own right, too. After getting the first out of the sixth, he walked three straight batters to load the bases. Luckily for Barraclough, the next batter was 28-year-old minor league catcher Eric Haase, who went down swinging. Renato Núñez then bounced out to shortstop to end the threat.
Toward the end of the contest, the Yankees tacked on two more runs when Rob Brantly went deep to right in the eighth off José Cisnero. With Robinson Chirinos out due to a fractured wrist, Brantly is quite likely to enter the season as the Yankees’ third-string catcher, waiting in case of emergency at the alternate site.
Reliever Brooks Kriske made it a little interesting in the ninth, as he walked Haase, plunked Núñez, and gave up a missile to left by Harold Castro. Haase scored, but Castro ran himself into an out between second and third. Kriske recovered to fan Daz Cameron and induce a fly ball from Spencer Torkelson to end the 4-2 victory.
In other news, the Yankees made a number of moves to trim down the spring training roster. They’ll be back in Tampa tomorrow afternoon, as Kluber will take his turn and face the Pirates at 1:05pm. Unlike Kluber’s last start, this outing will thankfully be televised on YES Network.