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New York Yankees acquire pitcher Jameson Taillon from Pittsburgh Pirates for four prospects

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The New York Yankees have added another bounce-back candidate to their starting rotation, acquiring Jameson Taillon from the Pittsburgh Pirates for four minor league prospects, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan and multiple reports.

Pittsburgh will receive pitchers Miguel Yajure and Roansy Contreras, infielder Maikol Escotto and outfielder Canaan Smith in the trade, sources told Passan.

Taillon, 29, was the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2010 and was a 14-game winner for the Pirates in 2018. But the hard-throwing right-hander appeared in just seven games in 2019 and missed all of last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow.

The Yankees agreed to the trade less than two weeks after signing two-time Cy Young award winner Corey Kluber, who also is looking to rebound from back-to-back injury-marred seasons.

Taillon and Kluber, if healthy, could provide the Yankees with much-needed experience and depth in their rotation behind ace Gerrit Cole.

With free agent Masahiro Tanaka‘s future uncertain and fellow veteran J.A. Happ having joined the Minnesota Twins, New York could face a shortage of proven starting pitching options after Cole.

Besides Taillon and Kluber, the other candidates for the Yankees’ rotation include left-hander Jordan Montgomery, who has appeared in just 12 games since his 2018 Tommy John surgery, youngsters Deivi Garcia and Clarke Schmidt, former All-Star Luis Severino, who missed all of last season because of Tommy John surgery, and Domingo German, who also missed the entire 2020 season while serving a suspension under Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy.

Taillon is on schedule to return in 2021 after recovering from the August 2019 operation, which was the second Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

The trade marks the latest step in a rebuild for the Pirates, who also acquired multiple prospects in earlier offseason trades that sent All-Star first baseman Josh Bell to the Washington Nationals and starting pitcher Joe Musgrove to the San Diego Padres.

Pirates manager Derek Shelton told reporters last month that any trades would be made “for the betterment of the Pirates moving forward.”

As for the Yankees, the trade also reunites a pair of former teammates in Taillon and Cole, who were both highly touted prospects in Pittsburgh’s organization and played together with the Pirates in 2016 and 2017.

Taillon most recently pitched in the majors in 2019, when he went 2-3 with a 4.10 ERA in seven starts. He went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA the previous season.

Taillon, who is under contract for $2.25 million in 2021, also missed time during the 2017 season while battling testicular cancer. His first Tommy John surgery was performed in 2014, when he was pitching in the Pirates’ minor league system.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Jake Arrieta says being back with Chicago Cubs ‘just feels right’

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CHICAGO — Former Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta is happy to be back in the city where he had his greatest success, saying Saturday that with the Chicago Cubs is “where I wanted to be.”

Arrieta, 34, signed a one-year, $6 million deal with the team he helped to a World Series title and will now be managed by his former catcher, David Ross.

“To play for a manager that caught one of my no-hitters is pretty cool,” Arrieta said in a Saturday video call with reporters. “This is where I wanted to be. The last few days here, it just feels right.”

Arrieta previously pitched for the Cubs from 2013-2017, winning the Cy Young award in 2015, the wild-card game that same season and a World Series ring the next year. Along the way, he threw two no-hitters, elevating his game to be among the best in baseball.

But after signing a free-agent contract with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2018, his production — and health — went south. His ERA climbed from 3.96 in 2018 to 4.64 in 2019 and then to 5.08 in 2020. He dealt with a meniscus issue and bone spurs in Philadelphia but said he is healthy now.

“There’s always things to prove,” Arrieta said. “Not that it’s in a negative way. It’s really just to prove I’m capable of performing at a high level. The level I expect to perform at. The last three years weren’t to my expectations.”

The Cubs hoped to unlock the same things they did when Arrieta came over from Baltimore as an ordinary pitcher in a mid-season trade in 2013. Some faces in the organization have changed, but many remain, giving Arrieta a level of comfort in his return.

“I would never want to make it seem like I’m not capable of performing in — fill in the blank — but is it a little bit different here in Chicago?” Arrieta said. “Of course. Just being able to put that uniform on, wearing 49 again in Wrigley Field, is going to be pretty special.”

Ross added: “Jake is still a top-of-the-rotation-type pitcher. Sometimes getting back to familiar coaches, familiar places can really elevate your game.”

Arrieta threw for teams in his hometown of Austin, Texas, during the winter but kept in close contact with the Cubs throughout the free agent process. After the team began shedding salary — including the trade of starter Yu Darvish — Arrieta wasn’t sure if there would be room for him.

“At first I thought it was less likely as those things started to happen,” Arrieta explained. “]But] their need for pitching is there.

“It was an unusual free agent market. Unlike one we’ve seen in the past. Baseball is in a weird spot. Teams have had to change the way they approach certain aspects of the game and rightly so [due to financial concerns].”

Arrieta returns to Chicago as a more experienced leader. He’s already attempting to impart his wisdom on the younger pitchers, indicating he’s spent a lot of time already with 25 year-old Adbert Alzolay.

“It comes with the territory,” Arrieta said. “You get to a point in your career where you’re expected to perform not only on the field but off the field. I take great pride in that.”

“He understands the presence he has,” Ross said.

Arrieta is sure to get a warm welcome from Cubs fans as he’s a reminder of their glory years, though the team might be in a bit of a transition right now. Arrieta is out to show them he’s the guy they remember dominating the competition en route to a Cy Young and a championship.

“I have a lot in the tank,” Arrieta said. “I have a lot to still accomplish in this game. I’m excited it’s going to happen in this Cubs uniform again.”

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Cleveland Indians ace Shane Bieber reports to camp after COVID-19 bout

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CLEVELAND — Cy Young winner Shane Bieber has reported to training camp in Arizona with the Cleveland Indians after recovering from COVID-19.

Cleveland’s ace recently tested positive with the virus. Bieber experienced only mild symptoms, but had to be isolated per MLB protocols before being medically cleared to join his teammates. The Indians’ other pitchers and catchers reported earlier this week,

The right-hander took part in drills on Saturday, a day before the Indians hold their first full-squad workout in Goodyear, Arizona.

The 25-year-old Bieber was baseball’s best pitcher during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Bieber led the majors in wins, ERA and strikeouts, a rare Triple Crown for pitchers.

Bieber will be expected to carry the load again for the Indians this season. The club has one of the AL’s best starting staffs, led by Bieber, who is 34-14 in three major league seasons.

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Staff can prove it’s more than Gerrit Cole ‘and the rest’

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TAMPA — Corey Kluber might be a three-time All-Star and a two-time Cy Young award winner, but he acknowledges that he is now just part of a group of aspirants for a spot in the 2021 new-look Yankees rotation.

“I understand why it’s looked as ‘Gerrit and the rest,'” said Kluber, in reference to the question marks surrounding a Yankees rotation in which the only pitcher without any concerns is Gerrit Cole, the team’s $324 million ace. “I get that. There’s some guys without a lot of experience. There’s some guys that are coming back from injury. As a group, we can’t pay attention to that. We just have to do our best job of preparing ourselves and being in a position that, hopefully, pitch a lot and kind of take away those question marks at the end of the year.”

Kluber’s use of the phrasing “Gerrit and the rest” comes from the uncertainties in the Yankees’ pitching staff ahead of the 2021 season. After losing pitchers Masahiro Tanaka, James Paxton and J.A. Happ to free agency, the Yankees will have to depend on several arms coming back from injury, including Kluber and fellow new signing Jameson Taillon (UCL surgery).

Despite a 98-58 record and a 3.16 ERA over 10 seasons in the majors, Kluber has been plagued by injuries in back-to-back years. He suffered a fractured forearm in 2019 after being hit by a comebacker. And a shoulder tear limited Kluber to a single inning in 2020, his first year with the Texas Rangers after being acquired via trade in the offseason.

Kluber addressed the media after throwing his first official bullpen in pinstripes this spring, stating he is on track heading into the 2021 campaign.

“I feel really good right now. No issues with it now or anywhere along the rehab process,” Kluber said of his right shoulder, where he suffered a Grade 2 tear of the teres major muscle that did not require surgical repair. “Honestly, the way that I would describe it now is I feel like I’m in a normal spot for spring training. I don’t feel like I’m still working on improving the shoulder or anything like that.”

Kluber, one of the many players who went through an offseason full of doubts before agreeing to a one-year, $11 million deal with the Yankees, had high praise for the club, calling it “the measuring stick for any professional sports organization.”

He also extended his admiration and respect for Cole, who on Thursday called himself a longtime fan of Kluber’s and described him as “a true craftsman.”

“Gerrit’s success speaks for itself. He’s one of the best pitchers in the game,” Kluber said. “I think overpowering is probably the first word that comes to mind. Just the way he’s able to suffocate lineups, pretty much three, four times through. Obviously, he has outstanding stuff. But stuff only goes so far. You can see, when you watch him and you pay attention, how well he understands pitching, and how he can use that extremely impressive stuff that he has to go out there and just overpower lineups.”

In addressing whether the start-and-stop nature of the pandemic-shortened 2020 season contributed to his shoulder injury, Kluber admitted he is still in the dark as to what caused it.

“I wish I had an answer,” he said. “I spent a little bit of time probably trying to figure out an answer, but I don’t think I’m ever going to. I don’t think we can pinpoint to one thing as to why it happened when it did, anything like that. I try to focus on the things that I can control. For me that was rehabbing to the best of my ability, and now it’s trying to prepare for a season.”

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