Yankees’ rotation behind Cole taking shape

MLB

TAMPA, Fla. (AP)The New York Yankees entered spring training with serious questions about who would follow ace Gerrit Cole in the rotation.

A week before the team breaks camp, the picture has become a lot clearer.

Corey Kluber, Jameson Taillon and Jordan Montgomery look ready to fill three of the spots, with Domingo Germa?n and Deivi Garcia making cases to round out the rotation.

”Starters are tremendously important when we’re talking six months,” Cole said. ”Health being first and foremost, everybody’s taking the ball when they’re asked and the performance right now is kind of the cheery on top. Of course the regular season is what counts, but very encouraged. I like the position that we’re in and I’m excited that everybody has been looking really good.”

Cole is scheduled to start the regular season opener against Toronto at Yankee Stadium on April 1. He struck out eight, and allowed one run and four hits over five innings in his next-to-last spring training outing on Sunday against the Blue Jays.

Others including Michael King are in the mix for starts during a season where pitching depth will be key.

”They’ve come in with an excellent focus really across the board and really good shape in a position to go out and perform,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. ”I think the plan in place with these guys from (pitching coach) Matt Blake leading that to getting these guys built up properly to this point has gone really well. So, with 10, 11 days to go here, I am at least encouraged by where we are.”

Kluber, a two-time AL Cy Young Award winner, has given up two runs over six innings after throwing just one inning since May 2019 due to right forearm and shoulder injuries.

Taillon has not allowed a run in 5 2/3 innings as he comes back from Tommy John surgery done in 2019.

Montgomery has a stretch of nine scoreless innings after giving up a run during the first inning in his initial start. The lefty has appeared in just 12 games since Tommy John surgery in 2018.

German has not surrendered a run over nine innings after not pitching since September 2019 due to violating baseball’s domestic violence policy. He was 18-4 in 2019

”When you have a close-knit staff of guys that are challenging each other, supporting each other, having really good conversions with one another, I think that’s something that can benefit the whole group and them individually as well.” Boone said. ”I’ve liked what I’ve seen from that standpoint early on here as these guys grow as teammates.”

Reinforcements from within also may provide an in-season lift as Luis Severino, a 19-game winner in 2018, could return from Tommy John surgery in June or July.

NOTES: Boone thinks Cole could reach 200 innings this year. After the shortened 2020 season not many pitchers are expected to reach that total. … Boone expects Gary Sanchez to catch Cole on opening day. Kyle Higashioka caught Cole in all three of the right-hander’s playoff starts last year.

More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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