Jameson Taillon made his debut tonight in West Virginia, but didn’t have a huge impact in his debut. Taillon allowed one run on three hits in two innings, with two walks and no strikeouts, pitching in a steady rain that eventually suspended the game in the second inning.
“It’s good to get it out of the way,” Taillon said about his pro debut. “I didn’t throw as good as I was hoping, but fought through some adversity with the weather and not really feeling my delivery the first inning, missing up. Not really getting the ball down.”
“When he was first starting to throw in his long toss, you could tell he was excited to get this one out of the way,” Kyle Stark said about Taillon’s debut. “He said something about he’s been waiting his whole life for this.”
The bulk of Taillon’s issues came in the first inning. That started with a lengthy at-bat against Blake Kelso, who eventually singled to shortstop.
“I work out with (Kelso) in the off-season, so it was funny how pesky he was being,” Taillon said. “But he put up a good fight, and I’m not going to ever give in to a guy, but he got a pitch and he jumped on it.”
Taillon followed that up with his first professional out, getting another ground ball to drew Maggi. Then came the big meeting everyone was waiting for, with Bryce Harper, the 2010 number one overall pick, coming to the plate. Taillon issued a five pitch walk, with all four balls coming in at 96 MPH, up and away. Harper’s hype didn’t play a factor in the walk though.
“I’ve played with him, I’ve thrown to him, I’ve faced him at USA trials before,” Taillon said of the at-bat. “I didn’t go at him the way I wanted to. It wasn’t an intentional thing, just missed on him. Honestly I didn’t get any more adrenaline throwing to him than I did any other batter out there.”
Hagerstown got on the board on a double by David Freitas, who brought in Kelso from second, and put runners at second and third with one out. Taillon followed that up by walking Wade Moore to load the bases. That drew a visit to the mound from pitching coach Jeff Johnson, who among other things, wanted to make sure the rain wasn’t affecting Taillon. Jameson responded with a two pitch at-bat against Mills Rogers, inducing an inning ending double play, which bought him an extra inning.
Taillon was set to throw around 70 pitches tonight, although the rain, his first inning, and a lot of hitting by his teammates limited him to 45 pitches. 28 of those came in the first inning, which was very close to his single inning limit.
“He probably had one more hitter,” Johnson said of the double play. “If he didn’t get the double play, ground ball, which was a great job by him, he’s probably staring at one more hitter.”
West Virginia gave him some support, and a chance to settle down, with a long inning at the plate. Eight batters came to the plate, and the Power managed three runs, led by an RBI single to center field by Matt Curry, and a two RBI double by Dan Grovatt that stayed just inside the third base line.
“In between innings, we put up a long first inning, I got some extra breathing time,” Taillon said. “My heart rate slowed down, I threw some good warm up pitches, and I was just trying to feel some balance over my back legs, staying tall, and I felt like I made a pretty good adjustment out there. I felt pretty comfortable that second inning.”
He was much better in the second inning, driving his pitches down in the zone, although he was sitting around 93-94 MPH, after sitting around 95-96 MPH in the first. There were reports that he hit 100 MPH in the first, although that came from an unreliable stadium gun. My gun had him touching 97-98 MPH against the first hitter.
West Virginia managed four more runs in the second inning, capped off with a two RBI double by Matt Curry, and a long two run home run by Justin Howard. The game was suspended with runners at second and third and one out, although Taillon wouldn’t have returned to the game, as Zach Foster was warming up in the bullpen during the bottom of the second.
So how did the first start go?
“He went through it just as I expected,” Jeff Johnson said. “It’s not the first time a lot of eyes have been on him. Our expectations are certainly more long term than one night, from our perspective. He handled it well. I knew he was going to be excited.”
“This was more about getting the first one out of the way,” Kyle Stark said. “So now we can kind of go to work. He made some significant progress down in Florida, and we look forward to getting back to those things.”
And of course, the most important reaction:
“My arm felt really good tonight, but with that extra adrenaline, that’s why it’s so good to get this one out of the way,” Taillon said. “When you mess up, at least when I mess up personally the ball flattens out a bit. With the stuff I have I can get away with it a little more sometimes, but that’s where my pitch count starts jumping, that’s where guys foul pitches off, and that’s where they get their pitch to drive. I know that, and I’ve got to be able to make that correction and drive it down in the zone.”
As for what is in store for Taillon from this point forward, he will go through the regular routine of being a starter, pitching every five days, and working a bullpen in between. The big thing will be carrying over what he worked on in extended Spring Training, which was working on driving the ball down in the zone. That’s not automatic yet for Taillon, who got away from it a bit tonight in the first inning, although he is to the point where the Pirates felt confident in starting his career.
“I think he’s come far enough that we feel confident that he can do it,” Kyle Stark said. “We wouldn’t have moved forward with this if that wasn’t the case.”
“It’s a tendency for me, whenever I get that extra adrenaline right now, because (driving the ball down) is kind of new, is to kind of go back to (the old delivery). To resort back to it. I’m going to watch some video tomorrow, not too sure. Everything felt pretty good, arm felt great, gonna check it out tomorrow.”
“At the end of the day it’s going to be the down hill, regardless of what the velocity is,” Stark said. “Do we think that he’s going to be able to pitch down hill with a higher velocity at some point? Yeah. It’s just figuring out how to do that.”
Tonight was the first step in Taillon’s much anticipated career. The general theme was “it’s good to get it out of the way”. It wasn’t the best debut, but the Pirates’ top prospect has plenty of time to put up better results. The most important thing is developing to the point where he can be successful in the majors one day.