Yankees still have rotation questions despite run of dominance

The Yankees gambled on the return of three right arms to stabilize their rotation after the losses of Masahiro Tanaka, J.A. Happ and James Paxton – as well as the absence of Luis Severino until midseason as he rehabs from Tommy John surgery.

After some shaky early results, the returns have been good from Corey Kluber and Domingo German. Less so from Jameson Taillon.

But the staff – newcomers and holdovers alike – were especially dominant through the most recent turn of the rotation and will take a historic 35-inning scoreless streak into Tuesday’s game against Toronto in The Bronx.

Kluber, who started the shutout streak with his no-hitter in Texas on Wednesday, takes the mound again against the reeling Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium.

The question now is, how do the Yankees handle their rotation as the heart of the regular season approaches?

“They have to be happy with what they’ve seen so far from Kluber and German, but especially for Kluber, they didn’t sign him to just eat innings and get them into a good spot during the regular season,’’ one AL scout said. “They got him to be one of their guys in October and they have to determine the best way to get him from this point to that one.”

New York Yankees starting pitcher Corey Kluber #28 pitches during the first inning
Corey Kluber has shown the Yankees exactly what they were hoping for out of the former Cy Young winner.
Robert Sabo

It’s a dilemma every contending team will face this year in the aftermath of last season’s 60-game regular season.

But few organizations figure to be met with trickier math than the Yankees, who are counting on Kluber – who pitched one inning for the Rangers last year before being sidelined with a torn muscle in his right shoulder – as well as German, after he sat all of last year while serving a suspension for violating MLB’s domestic violence protocols.

“I think they view the playoffs as [Gerrit] Cole, Severino and Kluber,’’ said another scout of the potential starting rotation for the Yankees. “When they’d need a fourth starter, they’d go to one of the other guys or they could still trade for someone. If they could take this version of Cole and Kluber and get a healthy Severino back, they’d take it. But there are a lot of innings to fill before then.”

Still, it’s a much better conversation to have than the one they looked to be dealing with in the early going, when Cole looked great and everyone from Kluber to German to Taillon to Jordan Montgomery was unimpressive. 

New York Yankees starting pitcher Domingo German #55 during the first inning
Domingo German has been part of a dominant Yankees rotation after a season-long suspension in 2020.
Robert Sabo

Now all of them are coming off solid to superb starts, with Kluber having started the run with his night against the Rangers, followed by German, Montgomery and Cole each tossing seven scoreless innings in their starts and Taillon shutting down the White Sox for five innings on Sunday at Yankee Stadium.

It’s helped spark a season-high six-game winning streak, which has masked some issues in the lineup that need to be addressed thanks to the loss of Aaron Hicks for the season with a torn sheath in his left wrist.

And prior to the rotation’s current turn, they had almost all struggled, having allowed 23 runs in 29 innings over the previous six games.

The AL scout believes what they’ve shown over the last week is more in line with how they’ve pitched of late.

“We all know what to expect from Kluber when he’s healthy,’’ the scout said. “German and Montgomery are young and trending up. Taillon still needs to figure some things out, but knowing they should have Severino back will take pressure off of all of them.”

Until then, though, they’ve used a sixth starter just once, and Deivi Garcia has been in the minors since that lone outing. He’s pitched better of late and, along with Michael King – and likely others – will be called upon again to provide some depth during the summer.

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