HOUSTON — Nathan Eovaldi and Jameson Taillon belong to the same pitchers’ club that no one wants to join.
It’s bad enough having Tommy John surgery once, but twice?
Eovaldi, the former Yankee, who will start American League Championship Series Game 2 on Saturday for the Red Sox, who lost 5-4 to the Astros in Game 1 at Minute Maid Park, said he chatted with Taillon, the current Yankee, about their shared predicament. Maybe, if the Yankees are lucky, Eovaldi can serve as a role model for Taillon.
“I feel like any time you have a guy who has gone through it two, three times, you kind of relate,” said Eovaldi, 31, who had his first TJ surgery in high school and his second in 2016 while with the Yankees. “Coming up with the Dodgers, I played with Chris Capuano. And even though it was my first one at the time, talking to him, knowing that somebody has gone through it twice [helped]. Played with [Jonny] Venters. He has gone through it three times. Just getting to pick their brains and see how their rehab and everything goes. I feel everybody has a little difference in the rehab process and things like that.
“Jameson had reached out to me too when it had first happened [in August 2019], and I don’t know. I feel like the same thing I kind of tell everybody, you’re going to be like that acquisition towards the end of the All-Star break, and you’ve got to be ready to go. And we have you guys down in the minor leagues or just rehabbing and then when it’s time for you to come back, you’re going to be that big pick-up that we [get].”
Taillon, who was acquired by the Yankees from the Pirates in January, made 29 starts totaling 144 innings in 2021 and posted a 4.30 ERA and 100 ERA+, making him exactly league average. The Yankees control him through next season before he attains the service time necessary for free agency.
Eovaldi has reached new peaks since his second TJ, although it hasn’t been a straight ride to the top. After starring for the Red Sox in the 2018 postseason, he re-upped with them for four years and $68 million and posted a 5.99 ERA in 67 ²/₃ innings in 2019. He followed that with a 3.72 in 2020 and a 3.75 in 2021, making 32 starts as the season returned to its full schedule. He has supplanted Chris Sale, himself rebounding from 2020 TJ surgery, as the club’s ace.
Asked whether returning from the second elbow reconstruction felt tougher than the first, Eovaldi said, “No, I didn’t feel like it was harder to come back from the second one.”
The Yankees can hope that Taillon reflects similarly a year from now.
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