After undergoing ankle surgery on October 28, Jameson Taillon isn’t yet sure about his recovery timeline, the Yankees right-hander told The Athletic’s Lindsey Adler. Taillon’s procedure fixed a torn longus tendon in his right ankle, and since this “is such a rare injury for pitchers,” Taillon said he doesn’t know exactly how his offseason rehab will play out.
“We have a rough timeline of when I can start really playing catch, which would be sometime in like mid to late January,” Taillon said. “But even the doctor was kind of like, ’You guys are the pitching experts.’ A typical offseason throwing progression would be like six to eight weeks of playing catch and then four weeks of bullpens. So basically everything I’m doing is kind of a month behind, but I’m not really sure where that will leave us at the end.”
In the event that the “month behind” projection is accurate, Taillon would seem likely to miss some games at the start of the season, as he’d need some extra work to make up for the lost Spring Training time. As he noted, however, everything seems quite fluid at this point, so it still be several weeks before Taillon or the Yankees know when exactly the righty might be ready to pitch.
The lockout prevents Taillon from communicating with team personnel, and “the Yankees’ strength department wrote out a program for me, but they don’t get to see me every day, so that side of it is kind of weird.” That said, Taillon said he is continuing his recovery at New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery, and has already been out of a walking boot for around 10 days.
Taillon also observed that his own past injury history has already made him quite familiar with rehab processes in general. A right flexor tendon strain and a subsequent Tommy John surgery sidelined for all of 2020, and limited him to only 37 1/3 innings in 2019. This was the second TJ surgery of Taillon’s career, and he also missed time in 2017 recovering from surgery for testicular cancer.
With this in mind, it was no small feat that Taillon was able to toss 144 1/3 innings for the Yankees last season, marking the second-highest workload of his five MLB seasons. Taillon posted a 4.30 ERA/4.33 SIERA with an above-average 7.3% walk rate and some impressive spin rates on his fastball and curve, though his fastball velocity was slightly down (to 94mph) from the 95mph he averaged from 2016-18. His hard-contact numbers were also down, and the result was ultimately what Taillon described as a “very up and down” season, as “it felt like my hot streak was really hot and my cold streak was really cold, which really isn’t like me.”
He remained healthy until his ankle issue arose in early September, though after a three-week absence, Taillon was able to return from the injured list and make two more appearances in key late-season games. Over a pair of abbreviated starts, Taillon allowed one earned run in 5 2/3 IP, helping New York to two critical victories.
The Yankees are no strangers to pitching injuries, and while the club obviously hopes Taillon is ready sooner rather than later, the Bronx Bombers have some rotation depth on hand. Beyond ace Gerrit Cole, Jordan Montgomery, Nestor Cortes Jr., Luis Severino, and Domingo German are lined up for starts, swingman Michael King can help in both the rotation and the bullpen, and youngsters Luis Gil, Clarke Schmidt, and Deivi Garcia are all waiting in the wings. The Yankees could also certainly still add to this group via trades or free agents once the lockout is over, and made one noteworthy push for a starter already this winter, reportedly offering Justin Verlander a one-year, $25MM deal before Verlander re-signed with the Astros.