Just getting dressed for his first workout with the New York Yankees merited a selfie from Jameson Taillon.
“Every sports fan knows what the Yankee pinstripes mean,” the pitcher said Friday from spring training in Tampa, Florida. "I took a picture in my pants, just at my locker. I thought it was so cool.”
An excited Taillon texted the photo to his family.
“My parents want an update,” he said. “They want to know that I’m here and I’m meeting people and making friends.”
Taillon is the ebullient addition to the Yankees' rotation, joined by the more phlegmatic Corey Kluber whose nickname is Klubot, as in robot.
A 29-year-old right-hander, Taillon was acquired by the New York Yankees from Pittsburgh on Jan. 24 for four prospects. He has not pitched since May 2019 while rehabilitating from his second Tommy John surgery. He is part of a new-look rotation behind ace Gerrit Cole, his former Pirates teammate.
Kluber, limited to one inning since May 2019, was signed to an $11 million, one-year contract for a projected rotation that also includes includes left-hander Jordan Montgomery. A competition for fifth starter is unfolding among Deivi García, Domingo Germán, Michael King, Clarke Schmidt and Jhoulys Chacín.
Taillon is 29-24 with a 3.67 ERA in four major league seasons. He’s never pitched in Yankee Stadium.
“I’ve taken in a few games as a fan, and I’ve definitely heard about it being a bit of a hitter-friendly park,” he said. “But throughout my career, I’ve been able to put guys on the ground and then hopefully with some of the mechanical changes I’ve made, I can get a little bit more swing and miss. Sometimes one of the worst things you can do is switch your approach to pitching.”
While Cole and Taillon are outgoing, Kluber is more of an introvert. He joins a team whose offence is keyed by even keel AL batting champion DJ LeMahieu, nicknamed “The Machine."
“I think that it was a maybe overplayed a little bit initially, would just be my thought. I wouldn’t say I’m for it, against it. It really makes no difference to me,” Kluber said. “I don’t think I’m ever going to be the most vocal person in the room.”
Yankees pitching coach Matt Blake, who worked with Kluber when they were with the Indians, called him “very concise and efficient in his language and communication.”
“I do think that he does open up more in some of the social fabric of a team,” Blake said.
A 34-year-old righty, Kluber is a two-time Cy Young Award winner with his third team in three years. He has thrown one inning since being hit on the right forearm by a comebacker in May 2019, none since tearing a muscle in his right shoulder in his Texas debut last July 26. That injury ended his season after one inning.
He is 98-58 with a 3.16 ERA in 10 seasons, the first nine with the Indians. He is 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA in the Bronx.
Taillon and Kluber both say they feel ready for a full season. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman has called them high risk, high reward.
“I understand why it’s looked at as Gerrit and the rest,” Kluber said. “We just have to our best job of preparing ourselves in being in a position to hopefully pitch a lot and kind of take away those question marks at the end of the year.”
Blake said the Yankees researched Kluber with Eric Cressey, the team's director of player health and performance and the pitcher's private coach, and spoke with Cole about Taillon.
“Obviously, you’re never going to have all the information," Blake said, “but we obviously felt pretty good about both these guys.”
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Ronald Blum, The Associated Press