TAMPA — When spring training started, the Yankees had plenty of questions surrounding their starting rotation.
Would Corey Kluber and Jameson Taillon be healthy? Would Domingo German be sharp? Would Jordan Montgomery be able to improve on what he did last year?
Those questions, so far, have been answered just how the Yankees would have wanted, which allows them to open the season with a solid starting five that Aaron Boone announced Sunday morning.
Gerrit Cole starts Opening Day on Thursday in The Bronx, followed by Kluber in the second game of the season on Saturday, then German and Montgomery, with Cole coming back for the fifth game of the year, taking advantage of early off days in the schedule.
That means Taillon, coming off Tommy John rehab, won’t start until the sixth game of the season.
“With [Taillon], it gives us an opportunity to slow-play him a little bit,” Boone said. “He’s in such a good spot physically, but with the off days we have in April, we want to be mindful of building these guys up properly.”
And Boone also indicated, as he has previously, that the Yankees intend to use a sixth starter at least once in the first month of the season, which could open the door for the return of Deivi Garcia, who was optioned to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Friday and will open the season at the alternate site.
Boone said the Yankees talked about the rotation for “several weeks” leading up to the final decisions and they want to “keep our guys as much as possible on the fifth or sixth day — and sometimes a seventh day — and it also avoids guys going on nine or 10 days [of rest].”
They ran into that issue at times last season following spring training 2.0, when J.A. Happ was sometimes skipped.
To keep everyone on schedule as much as possible heading into the regular season, Kluber starts Sunday against the Phillies in Clearwater, Fla. and German will pitch in Monday’s Grapefruit League finale in Tampa.
Montgomery is scheduled to pitch a simulated game when the Yankees have their workout day at Yankee Stadium Wednesday and Taillon on Thursday ahead of his first start.