Notes: Taillon keeps rolling; Bruce eyes spot

March 12th, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. -- The walks to the mound are becoming more routine for , the monotony of surgery rehab giving way to the joys of competition at the game’s highest level. The Yankees right-hander could not be more pleased by how his spring has progressed.

“These games, right now, matter a lot, especially to me, not having played in a while,” Taillon said on Friday, having tossed 2 2/3 scoreless innings in the Yanks’ 4-2 Grapefruit League victory over the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla. “There’s some urgency on my end just to put in good work every day. When I go home tonight, I’ll really think about what I did well, because it’s going to start counting here soon.”

Envisioned as New York’s No. 3 starter behind Gerrit Cole and Corey Kluber, Taillon didn’t exhibit sharp command, tossing 28 of 51 pitches for strikes while issuing three walks. But his stuff was good, as he permitted a pair of hits, struck out four and was clocked as high as 95.1 mph with his fastball. Taillon averaged 93.9 mph with his 28 heaters, also tossing 12 curveballs, nine sliders and two changeups.

“I’m not used to walking guys; that’s not my game,” Taillon said. “I hate that more than anything. Pitching through jams and having guys on -- having to change my looks to second and change my tempo with a runner on first -- those are all good experiences for me right now. The takeaway from the day is that I didn’t have my best stuff, didn’t have my best command, but I made pitches when I had to.”

With approximately three starts remaining before the regular season, Taillon said that he would like to spend that time practicing throwing backdoor curveballs and sliders for strikes to left-handed hitters. Taillon also generated a swing-and-miss on his changeup, which catcher Gary Sánchez wanted to work in. Taillon said that he will try to toss a few more changeups this spring to see if it’s a pitch worth using.

“I think I’m trending in the right direction on a lot of different things,” Taillon said. “The good thing about getting in these game situations is that it gives you feedback. Now, I know what to work on in my sides and what I want to work on in my next game. I’m healthy and the ball is coming out of my hand really well, so I’m super grateful for that.”

Jay day
Saying that he feels his healthiest in years, Jay Bruce is continuing to give the Yankees something to think about. The veteran first baseman/outfielder, a non-roster invitee to camp, was 1-for-2 with a walk on Friday. A three-time All-Star, Bruce is batting .400 (6-for-14) with two homers and three RBIs this spring, competing with Mike Tauchman and others for a bench spot.

“I feel normal. I feel like myself,” Bruce said. “I know that I can help a team; I know that I can be part of a winning team and help a team win a championship. There’s a reason I signed here. I felt like there was an opportunity to make the team and contribute. I’ve been a pretty consistent contributor for a long time, and that’s what I’m here to do.”

Right on
Friday’s lineup card prompted a few double takes as Brett Gardner logged the start in right field, a place he’s appeared only once as a Major Leaguer. That was on April 23, 2014, against the Red Sox at Fenway Park -- a date best remembered for Michael Pineda’s ejection after the Yankees pitcher was caught with pine tar on his neck.

With Clint Frazier, Aaron Hicks and Aaron Judge expected to comprise the Opening Day outfield, manager Aaron Boone said that he could envision scenarios where Gardner is asked to appear in right field.

“We know what a great outfielder he is, and we know how good he is in center or left field, especially at Yankee Stadium,” Boone said. “There are scenarios where he’ll be in the lineup, and we have a guy down or two, in a place like Fenway Park, where you want to maximize his range and his outfield ability. It’s something that he was open to.”

Roster moves
The Yankees made their first roster moves of camp on Friday morning. Outfielder Estevan Florial was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, with right-hander Luis Gil optioned to Double-A Somerset. Right-hander Luis Medina, infielder Oswald Peraza and right-hander Alexander Vizcaíno were optioned to High-A Hudson Valley, and right-hander Yoendrys Gómez was optioned to Low-A Tampa.

Additionally, 17 players were optioned to Minor League camp: infielders Armando Alvarez, Ezequiel Duran, Chris Gittens and Hoy Park; outfielders Trey Amburgey, Michael Beltre (who left Friday’s game with a left hamstring issue), Thomas Milone; catchers Josh Breaux, Max McDowell, Anthony Seigler, Austin Wells and Kellin Deglan; right-handers Glenn Otto, Adam Warren, Addison Russ and Reggie McClain; and left-hander Trevor Lane.

Bombers bits
• Luke Voit said that he opened a gash on his left knee sliding into third base during Thursday’s 6-1 win over the Phillies, but he otherwise experienced no issues. Voit was scratched from a game earlier this week due to left knee soreness.

• Boone said that his hope is to begin the season with 13 pitchers and 13 players on the active roster.

Up next
Right-hander Corey Kluber will make his second start of the spring on Saturday as the Yankees host the Pirates at George M. Steinbrenner Field, with first pitch scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET. Kluber worked two perfect innings in his spring debut, striking out three. Right-hander JT Brubaker will start for Pittsburgh. Fans can watch the game on MLB.TV or the YES Network, or listen live on MLB Audio or WFAN.