Jameson Taillon can be Yankees' catalyst in starting rotation this season

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Scott Thompson
·4 min read
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Jameson Taillon spring training
Jameson Taillon spring training

Jameson Taillon will be making his first start for the Yankees on Wednesday night, and it will be the first time he takes the mound in an MLB game since May 1, 2019.

It’s been a trying journey for the right-hander the Yanks traded for this offseason with the Pittsburgh Pirates, as he’s had to undergo two Tommy John surgeries since that last time he threw in a regular season contest. But Taillon has looked extremely solid for New York during his spring starts, owning a 1.08 ERA over 8.1 innings.

It’s why Aaron Boone is confident in Taillon not just in this first start, but for the entirety of the 2021 campaign. And it’s not just because of what he brings to the mound when he gets the ball.

“Obviously we’ve liked what we’ve seen as far as the way he’s thrown the ball and the way he’s progressed,” Boone told reporters via Zoom. “But he’s been a real positive guy I feel like in our room and in our culture. I think he’s going to be a real asset in what I feel like is a pitching group that’s really growing and pushing one another, having really good conversations to just get a little bit better.”

Because of the injury history, though, Taillon won’t have the green light – at least at first – to go as long as he chooses. Boone said he will start on a pitch count and take it from there, as he’s mentioned “slow playing” him early to make sure he doesn’t rush back into a full workload.

“We’ll have him on a pitch count, but he’s also built up a pretty good workload here in spring training and that’s gone well,” Boone explained. “He is recovered well I feel like and handle the workload well to this point. Remember, he was probably ready to pitch in a big league game last September. So this is a guy that hasn’t necessarily spent the offseason rehabbing, more getting ready for the season. There’s some comfort in that.”

Taillon might be in the fifth starter role for the Yanks, but if he can perform the way he did during spring, he will be much more than that this season. The 29-year-old reinvented his pitching mechanics this offseason that features a shorter arm delivery and more leg work to generate the same results velocity wise without the strain on his arm.

“I changed the way my lower body works,” he explained back in January when the Yanks acquired him. “I’m focused more on like a hip hinge movement, which gets your glutes involved. You hear as a kid, ‘Throw with your legs.’ Well, I’ve never been properly taught what that really meant.

"So now I’m actually activating my legs in a way that takes some pressure off my arm. By cleaning up the way my lower body moves, it’s shortened up my arm path. So I used to have this really long, whippy arm motion and now it’s much closer to the body. It might look like a short-arm action to a lot of people, but really it’s just a product of the way my body is moving.”

The early showings for “Jamo,” as the Bombers have affectionately called him, have been great with these new mechanics. He hasn’t complained about any arm issues and hitters have barely been able to produce.

Along with Corey Kluber, Taillon is a high-risk, high-reward signing that the starting rotation is leaning on to pitch consistently. And being a former second overall pick, Taillon has the makeup and stuff to get the job done. He’s also been able to post a 3.20 ERA in 191 innings back in 2018, so the experience to dominate big league hitting is there.

He may not be able to get that many innings this season because he’s on a limit, but that is why the Yanks are excited to see what Taillon can do for them as a depth starter.

Because he isn’t just a fringe rotation arm. He can be this unit's catalyst in the backend of a rotation with tons of potential.

“I’m excited for him and excited for him to go out and get us off to a really good start tonight,” Boone said.