A recent flurry of New York Yankees‘ offseason activity has brought several new faces to the roster. A pedestrian market for all of MLB accelerated in January and the Yankees capitalized, with four notable acquisitions in 12 days.
DJ LeMahieu, the familiar face that the team re-signed to a six-year contract, opened his Zoom press conference Thursday by commenting on Masahiro Tanaka, a familiar face that the team did not re-sign.
“Disappointing news, I guess, this morning with Masa signing that he won’t be back with the Yankees,” LeMahieu said. “…I’m disappointed I’m not going to be able to play with him anymore.”
As the Yankees move forward without a seven-year fixture in their rotation, they welcome new faces to their pitching staff. Darren O’Day agreed to terms to provide help in the bullpen, and Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon bring a mixture of risk and upside to the rotation.
Replacing Tanaka with Kluber and Taillon symbolizes the start of a new era for the Yankees’ starting rotation and both men are excited, in their own ways, for a fresh start with their new team.
Kluber’s Thursday Zoom press conference was a stark contrast to the one that Taillon gave on Monday. Kluber answered questions with the straight face and even-keeled attitude that inspired his nickname, the Klubot. Meanwhile, Taillon let his excitement show in his face and in his responses.
The difference between the two is fitting as they went down different paths to get here. Kluber’s resume speaks for itself, and he knows he can still pitch. For him it’s a matter of proving it. Taillon does not have the same career, and now he is hoping a new delivery will keep him going.
After a combined eight starts in two years, a fresh start for Kluber is demonstrating that he can still get outs effectively at age 35. Never did the thought cross his mind that he threw his last pitch. After a long rehab process, he feels healthy again. He has no goals for innings pitched or starts made. For him, the emphasis has always been on the process of getting ready for his next start.
Kluber assured that he is in a normal offseason routine, and he expects to be reliable and consistent. The only barrier for him right now is his mindset.
“It’s probably more of overcoming the mental aspect as opposed to the physical,” Kluber said. “I think that what I feel like I’m working on as far as getting ready for the season is getting out of that rehab mindset.”
While it is back to business as usual for Kluber, the same can’t be said for Taillon, who’s goal was to get away from what he considered normal altogether.
He completely revamped his mechanics after coming to the realization that it was a necessity for his career to continue. With the support of a bevy of individuals and organizations, Taillon is ready to start the next chapter of his career with the Yankees.
During his rehab, he started studying biomechanics and learned the true meaning of pitching with his lower half. Now, he uses a hip hinge motion when he pitches, and the change is already paying dividends. It takes pressure off of his elbow and shortens his arm action. Additionally, anti-inflammatories are no longer necessary in his routine. He believes he is a different person now.
“I feel like I’m at a maturity level and a point in my career and a point in my life where this is what I want, this is a team I want to be a part of, this is a team I want to help,” Taillon said.
Although the injuries are the biggest concern for these two Yankees offseason acquisitions, they are ready to prove they are behind them.
Joining the Yankees
Both pitchers want to put the Yankees over the top.
“I wanted to play on a contending team where I feel like I can contribute something special,” Kluber said.
In 2016, he pitched the Cleveland Indians to Game 7 of the World Series. He allowed seven earned runs in 34 1/3 postseason innings. The team fell short and was eliminated in the ALDS in 2017 and 2018, and he has not been back since.
The thought of playing for a contender excites Taillon, as well. Rather than reviving his career with a Pittsburgh Pirates organization that is far away from winning, he joins a team that has made the postseason in four consecutive seasons. He has never pitched in October, but he relishes the thought of that opportunity.
“I’m jumping into a legendary franchise, a legendary organization,” Taillon said. “Overnight, I went from a rebuilding organization to a team like the Yankees where I’m stepping in and the only thing they care about is to win. That’s kind of lit a fire under me.”
Additionally, Taillon considers himself a pitching nerd. Although he can’t wait to talk about the craft with all of his other teammates, Gerrit Cole is highest on the list. The two lived together as prospects, and they developed a friendship. Taillon leaned on Cole when he got to Pittsburgh, and he expect to the same in New York.
While these two Yankees offseason acquisitions come with concerns, they are ready to cast them aside and start the next part of their careers. The Yankees are hoping these new beginnings are positive additions to Kluber’s and Taillon’s careers that will benefit the team in October.
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