PITTSBURGH — Last weekend in Cincinnati, Jameson Taillon felt something odd the night before his scheduled start against the Reds.
Taillon brought it to the attention of the team’s medical staff, who quickly determined that he needed to have surgery to treat testicular cancer.
“It happened fast,” Taillon said Friday afternoon while speaking publicly for the fist time since his treatment. “It happened within two days of even feeling anything. One of our doctors pulled me into a conference room. I felt like I was in a movie or something. I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience.”
Of course, Taillon, just 25, is no stranger to bad medical news. In his short career he’s taken a line drive off the head and had elbow and sports hernia surgeries that each cost him an entire season. But this was different.
“The word cancer is scary,” he said. “That’s the first thing that jumps out to me. For my family, it was a little different. When they hear that you have to go through an elbow surgery, that sucks, but there’s not going to be a lot of people that feel sorry for you when you have elbow surgery and you’re a professional baseball player. When you have the word cancer involved, it adds a whole dimension. Now, you’re talking life, death, whatever. I know it was big for my family. It was scary.”
Taillon said that compared to the emotional aspect of learning about his diagnosis, the physical part has been easy. He was walking the day after the procedure and has started throwing a bit, as well.
AN OUTPOURING OF LOVE
Taillon relayed that he’s received a ton of messages giving him support.
I feel like I had everyone from janitors and people working the tunnels and security all the way to Bob Nutting, Frank Coonelly and Neal Huntington reach out,” Taillon said. “I got the vibe that they didn’t just reach out as a Pirate or a player. I think they genuinely care about me. That goes a long way.”
He also said that he’s been in touch with former teammate Andrew Lambo, Colorado Rockies pitcher Chad Bettis, former Philadelphia Phillies slugger John Kruk, and fellow Texan Lance Armstrong — all athletes that have or have had testicular cancer.
That’s not even counting Taillon’s teammates, who are wearing purple wristbands and have been some of his staunchest supporters. He’s known several of them for the entirety of his six-year Pirates career.
“Love isn’t a word I throw around too easily, but I love every single one of those guys,” Taillon said.
AN ADVOCATE FOR CHANGE
The early tests have all come back good news for Taillon. His doctors do not believe the cancer has spread and Taillon said his surgeon, Dr. John Lyne, called it one of the earliest-detected cases he’s had. He’s hoping to turn that good news into a message for other men.
“I want to be involved somehow,” he said. “It’s part of my identity now. I’ve been given a platform. I don’t think guys are nearly aware as they should be. I’ll find a way to speak out and be an advocate for early detection.”
He said that testicular cancer, in particular, can go unnoticed because men are uncomfortable discussing the matter.
“That’s how guys are,” he said. “We don’t want to talk about it. We don’t like going to the doctor. It’s a private area. You don’t like talking about it. … If I can speak out, I’m going to do it.
Taillon is waiting for confirmation that the surgery he had got all of the cancer and that he won’t have to have any further procedures before getting back into a throwing program. That is expected to take place next week, meaning that if all goes well, a return to the baseball field might not be far off.
“I’m starting to do baseball activity again,” he said. “I’m just playing catch right now. We’re truly going day-to-day. … I’m feeling good now. I’m feeling healthy.”
WATSON MAKES CHANGE
Pirates closer Tony Watson has made a change in representation, hiring Scott Boras to be his agent. Watson will become a free agent for the first time in his career this offseason, putting the off-the-field part of the game into focus for him.
“It’s just business,” he said. “I’m not really looking ahead. You can’t put the cart in front of the horse, but I just know that when I talk to Scott, it’s a good relationship and something that I felt very comfortable with.”
Watson said that he talked with Josh Bell and Gerrit Cole — both of whom are represented by Boras — before making the move and said that it was “an easy decision.”
Danny Ortiz will make his first career start and is playing left field. … Gregory Polanco said he will not test his strained left hamstring Friday, but probably will on Saturday. … Trevor Williams will make his third start. He has a 7.88 ERA over his first two starts, but his xFIP is 4.51, suggesting a turnaround could be in the cards.