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One day, two wins: Taillon, Lambo lead Curve to snap four-game skid

The Altoona Curve picked up two wins today against the Richmond Flying Squirrels at People’s Natural Gas Field. First, Andrew Lambo singled home Charlie Cutler in the 11th inning to end last night’s rain suspended game with a 2-1 victory. Then, Jameson Taillon threw seven shutout innings to pace the Curve to the second win of the day, with Lambo contributing again, this time with two RBIs in the 4-3 victory.

Jameson Taillon had another good start for Altoona.

Jameson Taillon had another good start for Altoona.

Taillon continues string of impressive starts

Coming off a ten strikeout effort last week in which he took the loss, Jameson Taillon got his first win of the season pitching seven shutout innings and surrendering only two hits and three walks to go along with six strikeouts. The effort lowered the big right-hander’s season ERA to 1.00, and so far this season he has shown why he is such a highly touted prospect.

The outing didn’t begin as sharp as the outcome suggests, as Taillon took 24 pitches to get through the first inning, walking two and throwing only 12 strikes.

“I started off a little all over the place. I was trying to feel out the zone and that got me into trouble versus just thinking ‘power down.’ I was trying to spot everything perfectly, and I was pitching into trouble,” said Taillon.

Taillon’s four-seam fastball was 93-96 mph throughout the outing, touching 97 once. Even with stuff as good as Taillon’s, command is still key, and when he keeps the ball down he looks like an ace-in-the-making. Taillon started to get on track in the 2nd, needing only nine pitches and striking out center fielder Jarrett Parker swinging on a good curveball in the dirt.

After a bit more trouble with fastball command in the third, Taillon settled in, retiring 11 Richmond batters in a row before giving up a single to right fielder Brett Krill in his final inning.

“Once I got rolling, my fastball command felt good. I felt like I was getting it in on hitters, and the curveball was there for me today,” said Taillon.

One thing that most impressed me today with Taillon was how aggressively he attacked the inside part of the plate with his fastball, even when his command wasn’t as sharp.

“It’s huge for me. That allows me, if my command’s not there or a fall behind in the count, to still make competitive pitches. If the hitter is uncomfortable, they’re not going to take as many swings and they’re on their heels a bit,” he noted.

“I knew early I didn’t have my greatest command, so I knew getting the ball in was going to keep them off of everything, and that was probably my biggest key to success,” Taillon added.

The big take away from today’s start was that even when he’s not at his best, Taillon can make it miserable for the opposition, getting lots of swing-and-misses with the curveball and eventually figuring out his fastball command to locate it on both the inner and outer edges. The only hits he gave up were two soft singles.

I was looking forward to seeing how good the change-up and two-seam fastball are coming along, but once he got going, he could basically control the game with only the four-seam and curve offerings. When he did mix in the occasional two-seamer and change, both looked pretty good. In particular, he induced a few soft groundouts with the change, a good indication that the location was down and hitters were not getting good contact.

Another positive sign was Taillon’s ability to straighten himself out after the spotty first inning and find a groove. His ability to make adjustments (in this case mental ones) and settle in shows great maturity. He finished the day with 100 pitches and seven innings of work, his longest outing of the season.

“The bar is up there. We expect nothing less from him,” added manager Carlos Garcia.

Lambo’s good at-bats lead to good results

After going 0-for-4 last night, Andrew Lambo finished game one on a high note with two hits and the game-winning RBI in the 11th. In game two, he added a sacrifice fly and RBI single going a combined 3-for-6 today.

“The approach was different today than last night. He understands that he needs to stay within himself and just try not to think too much,” said Garcia.

Lambo is an interesting player to watch this season, as he has gone from top prospect to unprotected and unselected in the Rule 5 draft in a few short seasons. All indications are that he’s finally healthy after dealing with injuries the past two seasons, and I was impressed with his patience at the plate. Without a true defensive position (he’s been playing right field and today got a start at first base), good hit and power tools are what he will need to carry him forward. So far in 2013, the signs are pretty good that he still has a chance.

Other notes

**3B/LF Adalberto Santos (.417 BA in 24 at-bats) went on the disabled list yesterday with a left hip strain. Today, he said he feels pretty good and that the DL stint should be short, expecting to return to action next week.

** Nathan Baker gave up a three-run homer in the 8th inning to left fielder Javier Herrera. It was a rough 1/3 inning for the lefty who walked two and only threw ten strikes out of 24 pitches.

** Jeff Inman relieved Baker, recording the last five outs of the game to earn the save. He put up three strikeouts and his fastball was 94-95 to go along with a good curveball. He’s another player to watch in Altoona this season.

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John Eshleman

John Eshleman joined Pirates Prospects in 2012, providing live coverage of the State College Spikes and the Altoona Curve. He will return for the 2013 season to provide coverage of the Jamestown Jammers while they are in State College. He will also be providing coverage of the Altoona Curve throughout the year. John is currently earning a Ph.D in Rural Sociology from Penn State University, and he lives in State College with his fiance Allison. Also, he hates the designated hitter rule.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

    Liked these two comments:
    .
    “The big take away from today’s start was that even when he’s not at his best, Taillon can make it miserable for the opposition”
    .
    “his [Inman’s] fastball was 94-95 to go along with a good curveball. He’s another player to watch in Altoona this season.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ian.rothermund Ian Rothermund

    What things at the current level does Taillon have to prove in order to start to earn a promotion?

    • John Eshleman

      Good question, and I can only speculate. When Taillon reaches a point that AA is not challenging him enough to use his full repertoire then I think the org will need to move him to AAA. That’s already happening to a point, as he noted not using his two-seam or change much in games (working them in bullpen sessions though). The rumor has been ‘mid-season’ but I’m starting to wonder if they’ll consider sooner if his success continues? Since he’s had occasional trouble leaving the fastball up (which good AA hitters feast on but average ones don’t) they may want him to show more consistency with command before a jump. But if he starts commanding it well routinely, it will be hard to keep him down IMO. Pimentel is also pushing for a promotion early on, so a logjam in Indy isn’t out of the question.

      For argument’s sake, let’s say Liriano and Morton join the MLB rotation in May pushing Locke to AAA and leaving Sanchez’s status unknown. Add to that guys who are and should be in AAA– Cole, Oliver, Irwin, Johnson plus injured ones returning at some point in Karstens and McPherson (both SP/RP options) plus Taillon and Pimentel promotions and that’s a lot of guys to get innings in AAA. Of course, guys get hurt (I’m looking at you J-Mac) and others struggle, but I still see a ton of depth there. Should be interesting.

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