It’s the last day of March, and even though Opening Day is going to be a little later than usual this year, we’re only one week away from teeing it up for keeps in the Bronx. The Yankees have only seven days left to cross the tees and dot the eyes on their roster before Gerrit Cole takes the mound in Yankee Stadium against the Red Sox next Thursday. This afternoon, Jameson Taillon, whose importance to the team seems to be increasing daily, will take the mound in Clearwater against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Step one with Taillon is simply establishing that he’s 100 percent healthy and fully recovered from his off-season ankle surgery. All systems seemed to be in order in his first start on March 21st, also against Philadelphia, when he threw two uneventful innings, striking out one and allowing only one baserunner. If Taillon can improve off his solid-if-unspectacular 2021 season (as most of us expect he will, as he hadn’t pitched in almost two years prior to 2021), he can be part of a formidable front three in the rotation along with Cole and Jordan Montgomery. Yet given the number of question marks in the rotation after that trio, a Taillon who doesn’t progress may be more problematic than we thought over the winter.
Zach Eflin will be Taillon’s counterpart today, as he’ll also be making his second start of the spring. Eflin also threw two uneventful innings in his first spring start this past Saturday against Detroit and is looking to give the Phillies some depth at the back end of their rotation heading into 2022. The 27-year-old right-hander missed the second half of ’21 with foot and knee issues but pitched well through July, posting a 3.68 FIP and 1.249 WHIP in 105.2 innings of work. Eflin isn’t going to set any records on the radar gun, but he features a good sinker, and the Yankees better be ready to swing when they get in the box — Eflin’s 3.6 percent walk rate ranked in the 99th percentile across MLB in ’21.
Speaking of the Yankees’ batters, manager Aaron Boone has filled the lineup card predominantly with players who need to make a good impression if they want to stay with the big club. Isiah Kiner-Falefa will lead off as the only expected 2022 starter, and he’ll be followed by Marwin Gonzalez, who’ll be looking to keep his hot bat going. Miguel Andújar will get some reps in left field, and Phillip Evans will try to make a good impression in the DH role.
I’m guessing that like me, you’re looking forward to seeing Taillon take another step forward today as we begin the one-week countdown to opening day, 2022.
How to watch:
Location: BayCare Ballpark, Clearwater, Florida.
First pitch: 1:05 p.m. ET
TV broadcast: NBCSP+
Radio broadcast: MLB.com
Online stream: MLB.tv