On Thursday, Clint Hurdle was updating the Pittsburgh media in San Diego on Jameson Taillon’s rehab progress. During his update, Hurdle offered up the information that Taillon had to sit down briefly due to a cut on his foot. I haven’t been able to confirm the timeline of when it happened, but my guess is that it came between his first and second starts.
Taillon threw one inning, then went nine days before throwing a two inning outing. Since then, he has been on a normal five-day routine, throwing three innings five days later, and scheduled to throw four innings on Tuesday after his most recent five-day stretch. I think the cut came during this stretch because this rehab was different than what Clay Holmes is currently going through. Holmes threw his one inning outing on Thursday, and will go two innings on Tuesday. Both returning from Tommy John surgery, yet Taillon needed a few extra days between the first and second outings. So it makes sense if that’s when the injury occurred.
The injury really doesn’t matter. It’s a cut on Taillon’s foot, and he obviously isn’t dealing with it anymore. It’s mostly just an interesting note, and nothing more. But it did make me think about Taillon’s rehab, and how he’s pretty much the guide for all future Tommy John cases.
In most cases these days, players returning from Tommy John are back in almost exactly one year. The Pirates are doing things a little different with Taillon and Holmes, taking a conservative approach with their build-up. This is in part to be conservative after a major surgery, but also to make sure they can finish out the year, rather than going with the Stephen Strasburg late-season shutdown. And after Holmes underwent a setback, Taillon became the guide for the conservative approach.
I’ve been over at Pirate City at least once a week for extended Spring Training, and have covered a lot of Taillon’s rehab. This month alone, I’ve written five injury updates on him, not counting any mentions in other features on the site. I was there for his first bullpen, his first time facing hitters, live BPs, his first rehab start, and so on. And in all of this, I would have never known that Taillon missed a short amount of time, mostly because nothing about Taillon’s rehab has been normal.
The Pirates take a typical approach when building up pitchers. They throw a few bullpens, then get a live BP, then work in a sim game where the pitcher throws two simulated innings, including a break between those innings, and finally they do a build up of three, four, and five innings before being ready for the season. It’s a process that takes about a month, or the amount of time in Spring Training.
In Taillon’s case, he started throwing bullpens in mid-January, then went on a two-day-per-week schedule where he threw only on Tuesday and Friday, with one bullpen per week. That lasted until early March, when he started mixing in hitters. He was throwing live BP in April, and by early May, he was getting into real games. It was pretty much the same process with Holmes.
I’m not saying this approach is right or wrong, although I don’t think it’s possible to be wrong by taking a conservative approach with a pitcher coming off a major injury. What I am saying is that we didn’t really know the approach until now, and we’re still trying to understand it. And that’s key right now, because next year we will see Brandon Cumpton and Nick Kingham go through this same process (I’ve already got my “Brandon Cumpton Faces Live Hitters For the First Time” article scheduled for 3/13/16). And with a better understanding of that process, we get a better understanding of when those guys could return.
I’ll be covering Taillon’s next start on Tuesday, and I’ll most likely be asking him after the start about when the cut happened. Not because that really matters now, but because it might give more understanding of the timeline for the Pirates, which will shed some light on what to expect with the next wave of Tommy John rehab pitchers.
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