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Initial turn through Yankees rotation provides reason for optimism

The thousand-pound question mark in the room for the New York Yankees seems less worrisome today after their first (almost) full trip through the rotation ended with a dominant performance from Jordan Montgomery Monday night.

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With only Jameson Taillon left to make his debut, the Yankees have to feel pretty good about how this piecemealed rotation has looked and optimistic about where it can take them behind Gerrit Cole.

The good: Cole and Montgomery

Cole was Cole in his debut, only laboring through one inning and giving up a solo homer in the sixth which continues to be the only real concern you can have with him. But with eight strikeouts over 5.1, Cole did exactly what you needed him to do on a cold Opening Day and with a lot of innings ahead of him.

From the left side of the mound, is it hyperbole to say that Montgomery turned in one of, if not the most impressive starts of his career last night? Maybe, but we’d only seen 17 regular season starts from him heading into last night and it was becoming easy to forget about the potential force that he can be. Monty was the talk of Tampa throughout spring training so it’s exciting to see him carry it over in his first start.

The OK: Corey Kluber

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It’s important to set expectations accordingly when it comes to Kluber this season. Even at his best, he’s likely not going to be a high-caliber starter anymore, and that’s OK. The main thing the Yankees need is for him to give the team a chance to win every time he takes the rubber – and with that, stay healthy enough where he can make, say, 20-25 starts.

Saturday’s outing was just that – Kluber labored but was able to work out of trouble in a few different instances and left the game with a lead. He’ll be pushed more innings-wise as the season goes on but for now, if his first outing was any indication, you have to feel good about what Kluber can be this year.

The bad: Domingo German

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German made it impossible for the Yankees to keep him out of the rotation with his spring but was hit pretty hard Sunday in his first regular-season start since 2019. If you want to put a positive spin on it, it’s probably safe to say that German was feeling some rookie-like jitters and, factoring in spring training, there’s still more positive to point to in 2021 than negative.

German will be given some leash length but with Deivi Garcia sitting as a viable option in Scranton, it’s difficult to imagine the Yankees let him work it out at the major league level for too long. And don’t sleep on Michael King who provided the perfect symmetry to German’s outing with six innings of one-hit ball in relief.

As long as health doesn’t force moves that have to be made, the Yankees’ rotation by committee should run out a starter each night that you feel good about.