Yankees’ Kluber to follow Cole, Taillon to skip 1st turn

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
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TAMPA, Fla. — Corey Kluber will follow ace Gerrit Cole in the New York Yankees’ rotation, and Jameson Taillon will be skipped the first time through as the team builds him up slowly in his return following Tommy John surgery.

Cole will start Thursday’s opener against Toronto at Yankee Stadium and Kluber, returning from two injury-filled seasons, will start Saturday against the Blue Jays.

“When he’s at his best, he’s kind of masterful and precise,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “We’ve seen all that flash this spring.”

A 34-year-old righty, Kluber signed an $11 million, one-year contract with the Yankees, his third team in three years. He knows cold and wet weather is possible when he faces the Blue Jays.

“Obviously playing in Cleveland for a while, I’m used to colder weather at the beginning of the year,” he said. “Once the game rolls around and you’re out there and you’re playing, it’s probably the last thing on your mind.”

The two-time Cy Young Award winner has thrown one inning since being hit on the right forearm by a comebacker on May 1, 2019, none since tearing a muscle in his right shoulder in his Texas debut last July 26.

“We’ll be a little conservative out of the gates with him from a pitch count standpoint,” Boone said.

Domingo German will start the series finale against the Blue Jays on April 4, his first appearance in two years. The 28-year-old right-hander was placed on administrative leave on Sept. 19, 2019, while MLB investigated an alleged domestic violence incident involving his girlfriend, with whom he has at least one child.

German missed the final nine games of the 2019 regular season and all nine of New York’s postseason games, then on Jan. 2, 2020, was suspended for 63 games. He missed the entire pandemic-shortened 2020 season.

German pitched nine scoreless innings over five appearances during spring training, allowing five hits, striking out 13 and walking one.

“The lack of rust has been probably the most I guess pleasantly surprising thing to me,” Boone said.

Left-hander Jordan Montgomery is to start against Baltimore on April 5, followed the next day by Cole.

Taillon is to make his Yankees debut against the Orioles on April 7. The 29-year-old right-hander was acquired by the New York Yankees from Pittsburgh on Jan. 24 for four prospects.

“I’m excited. Packing up my Airbnb down here in Florida. Packing up my locker. Shipping stuff up to New York. It’s real. The season’s upon us. There’s a buzz upon around here,” Taillion said. “There’s a lot of people that stood by my side and helped me with the rehab and stuff. So excited for myself, but I’m also excited just to put all that work onto the field and hopefully make people proud that invested a lot of time and energy in me,”

Taillon has not pitched since May 1, 2019, while rehabilitating from his second Tommy John surgery that Aug. 13. He also had the reconstructive elbow procedure on April 9, 2014. He said the Yankees had told him of this schedule weeks ago and he agreed this was a way to “save some bullets, ease into the year, ease into the cold weather, ease into the competition.”

“We just want to be mindful of building these guys up properly,” Boone said. “We feel like a sixth starter is going to factor in at least once, maybe a couple of times in the month of April.”

Deivi Garcia was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Friday after going 0-2 with a 3.86 ERA over 14 innings in five spring training outings.

Luis Severino is expected back this summer following Tommy John surgery on Feb. 27 last year. Severino threw off a mound for the first time following surgery on March 9 and Boone said Friday he will soon start throwing breaking balls.

Boone said it is possible but unclear if left-handed reliever Justin Wilson, slowed by shoulder soreness, could be active on opening day. Wilson resumed throwing Saturday.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.