Yanks notes: Starters' health; Andújar; Bruce

February 26th, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. -- The biggest questions in Yankees camp revolve around the health of the starting rotation, considering that , and combined to pitch all of one inning at the Major League level last year.

There is no need to worry, according to Kluber, who believes he is exactly where he needs to be. The right-hander tossed two innings in live batting practice on Friday afternoon at George M. Steinbrenner Field, testing his repertoire against a star-studded hitting group that included , , and .

“My goal is to hit the ground running on Opening Day,” Kluber said. “It’s no secret that I probably haven’t been at my best early on in the season previously in my career; not that I want to be OK with that. I’m always trying to tweak what I need to feel like it will have been better prepared from the get-go. Every game is important.”

Kluber permitted a Voit homer and LeMahieu made loud contact during Friday’s workload, but otherwise, manager Aaron Boone said that he believed the two-time American League Cy Young Award winner took another positive step toward his yet-to-be-determined Grapefruit League debut.

“I feel really good about his progress,” Boone said. “I thought he finished better than he started, and I think the stuff is overall pretty crisp. I’m encouraged where he’s at. We’re sitting here in February, and we’ve got essentially a stud pitcher ramping up for a season.”

Having signed a one-year, $11 million deal on Jan. 27, Kluber is glad that he will not have to tackle the Yankees’ lineup during the regular season. Kluber said that Judge’s presence in particular was imposing from 60 feet and six inches away.

“There’s not many people in the game as big or as strong,” Kluber said. “It’s definitely a different look for a pitcher.”

Taillon, who hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2019 due to Tommy John surgery, said that he arrived in camp believing that a workload of 120 to 150 innings would be possible. The right-hander is open to discussion on that goal, depending on how he feels later in the season.

“We haven’t talked about any given number, but we have talked about communicating and staying vigilant,” Taillon said. “I’m ready to be honest and open about that. I’m sure as Spring Training gets on, we’ll communicate about some sort of rough idea that we have. Right now, I’m feeling really good.”

The 29-year-old Taillon said he expects the Yankees to closely monitor his measurements in the training room, such as his range of motion, to ward off future injuries. Taillon has incorporated mechanical changes to his delivery and is hearing positive feedback from his catchers early in camp.

“The fastball plays at the top of the zone really well,” Taillon said. “That’s something I’m really excited about. Overall, all of my pitches are extremely defined. They might not look as big and they might not break as big, but everything’s really sharp and out of the same release point. Because of the changes I’ve made, I’m finding that consistent release point out front, so everything’s tunneling really well.”

Seven up
Sunday’s game against the Blue Jays is scheduled to be a seven-inning contest, according to Boone.

“Our first three or four [games] are probably all going to be seven-inning games,” Boone said. “We’ll lay out our pitching plans and we’ll know what innings we have to fill, and try to get ahead of those conversations with the other clubs on given days.”

Spring Training games through March 13 can be five innings, seven innings or nine innings upon mutual agreement of both managers. Games from March 14 to the end of Spring Training can be shortened to seven innings.

Getting Miggy
Though his place on the Yankees’ roster is uncertain at this juncture, Boone said will receive opportunities to play early in the spring schedule, which could help him build momentum going into the season. The 25-year-old has been working out at first base, third base and left field.

“Miggy is very much in the mix,” Boone said. “He’s got a proven track record of an elite season under his belt. We understand that it’s still very much in there, so it’s really about taking advantage of different opportunities. We’ve seen that happen over the last couple of years with Clint Frazier. I’m not going to put anything past Miggy because of the talent.”

Bruce is loose
expected to put on the Yankees’ pinstripes around the Trade Deadline in 2017, when the outfielder’s name was heavily circulated in rumors. The Mets instead opted to deal Bruce to the Indians, where he was part of a historic 22-game winning streak and played against New York in the postseason.

“I was basically told that I was being traded,” Bruce said. “My understanding was that I was being traded to the New York Yankees. … I wanted to go somewhere where I had an opportunity to win a World Series. I was extremely happy to be in Cleveland; I would have been extremely happy being in New York.”

A left-handed slugger capable of playing first base and the corner outfield spots, Bruce hit .198 with six homers and 14 RBIs in 32 games for the Phillies last year. Bruce said he has a March 25 opt-out in his Minor League contract; he’s hoping not to use it.

“Ultimately, why I picked the Yankees now is because I want to win a World Series,” Bruce said. “I’ve been able to do a lot individually as a player, I’ve accomplished quite a bit in my career, but I haven’t been able to get to the top of that hill yet. If you are looking to get there, I think right now the New York Yankees is the place to be.”

is scheduled to serve as the designated hitter in the Yankees’ spring opener on Sunday against Toronto, then he will be behind the plate to catch and Taillon in New York’s second spring game on Monday against the Tigers.

“I feel he’s in a good space,” Boone said. “His work has been good defensively and offensively.”

and are not expected to play in the first two exhibition games, according to Boone, who said there are no health concerns with the veterans.

“Those first two games, you’ll see pretty much all of our regulars,” Boone said.