Pirates face former prospect, Yankees ace in opener

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The Pittsburgh Pirates will not only get to host the top team in baseball, but they also will get to see an old friend or two when the New York Yankees visit for games.

Yankees right-hander Jameson Taillon (9-1, 3.32 ERA) is scheduled to start Tuesday opposite Pittsburgh left-hander Jose Quintana (1-4, 3.43 ERA). In addition, the Pirates could see New York closer Clay Holmes (4-0, 0.49 ERA, 15 saves).

Taillon and Holmes began their careers with Pittsburgh, and both are having the kind of success the Pirates at one time hoped or even expected they would have with their original team.

Taillon, 30, was considered a top prospect and candidate to anchor Pittsburgh’s rotation. Two Tommy John surgeries and a battle with testicular cancer were among the setbacks that kept that from happening before the Yankees acquired him in January 2021 for pitchers Roansy Contreras and Miguel Yajure, outfielder Canaan Smith-Njigba and infielder Maikol Escotto.

Holmes, 29, never got on track with the Pirates, who traded him to the Yankees nearly a year ago after he was 5-7 with a 5.57 ERA in 91 appearances with Pittsburgh.

Both have certainly blossomed with the Yankees.

“Clay is looking pretty dominant over there, and (Taillon) is doing really good this year. We’ve got to take it to them,” Pirates third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes told the Pittsburgh Tribune Review.

And try to ensure the opposite doesn’t happen.

“I hope (Holmes) and (Taillon) don’t throw the ball well when they’re here. Then, when they leave, I hope they throw great,” said Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton, whose team is coming off a four-game series split against Milwaukee.

Prior to that series, the Pirates had lost five of six and, at 15 games under .500, they do not look like a strong match for the Yankees.

Both teams had a day off Monday. For the Yankees, it was their first scheduled off day after a 20-day stretch. They were 14-6 in that span.

“It was a tough stretch — some tough travel, middle of the night situations, day games after night games,” New York manager Aaron Boone said. “I thought we played well through it.”

During that stretch, the Yankees swept Tampa Bay, won a series against Toronto, won a rematch series against Tampa Bay, split a series against Houston, swept Oakland, and lost a makeup game against Houston before winning a series against Cleveland.

“We’ve been playing good, especially for that many days in a row,” New York pitcher Jordan Montgomery said. “The competition we’ve been facing has been incredible, so to come out of it (14-6), that is pretty good.”

Taillon is coming off a win Wednesday against Oakland, when he gave up three runs and seven hits in five innings, with six strikeouts and two walks. This will be his first appearance against his former team.

Quintana is 2-2 with a 3.18 ERA in six career games (five starts) against the Yankees.

He is coming off a no-decision last Tuesday when he gave up one run in six innings, with six strikeouts and two walks, against Washington.

Brian Cashman signs 4-year contract to remain Yankees GM

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SAN DIEGO — Brian Cashman has signed a four-year contract to remain the New York Yankees Senior Vice President and General Manager. The announcement was made during the first day of baseball’s Winter Meetings.

Cashman, New York’s GM since 1998, had been working on a handshake agreement since early November, when his five-year contract expired.

The Yankees were swept by four games in the AL Championship Series and haven’t reached the World Series since winning in 2009. It is the franchise’s longest title drought since an 18-year gap between 1978-96.

Cashman’s main goal during the offseason is trying to re-sign AL MVP Aaron Judge.

Judge hit an American League-record 62 homers this season with a .311 batting average and 131 RBIs. He turned down the Yankees’ offer on the eve of opening day of a seven-year contract that would have paid $213.5 million from 2023-29.

While Judge remains on the market, Cashman was able to re-sign Anthony Rizzo on Nov. 15 to a two-year contract worth $40 million after turning down a $16 million player option.

Cashman has been the Yankees general manager since 1998. He has been with the organization since 1986, when he was a 19-year old intern in the scouting department. In his 25 seasons as GM, the Yankees have reached the postseason 21 times, including four World Series championships and six American League titles.