Yesterday afternoon, Jameson Taillon packed up from mini camp and went home in order to attend a wedding this weekend. The act of leaving Pirate City and Bradenton isn’t something that Taillon has done often in the last two years.
The right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery in early 2014, and missed all of the 2014 season. He spent that entire off-season rehabbing at Pirate City. He remained in Bradenton the entire year in 2015, only going home for a few weeks after hernia surgery. He’s finally healthy and having a “normal off-season”, which includes being able to go home for a bit.
“Getting away and getting out of here too makes it fun to come back, instead of dreading staying all the time,” Taillon said. “Now it’s exciting to come here and see all the faces.”
He is currently throwing flat grounds, and throwing all of his pitches in those sessions. He has his first bullpen session on January 19th, and will start building up for the season at that point. The hope for this season is that he will finally make it to the majors, which is something he’s been preparing for since the 2014 season.
“Came here in Spring Training 2014 hoping that was my year, and never left,” Taillon said, referring to his Tommy John surgery. “I’m excited for this year.”
This is now the third year in a row that we enter the season expecting Taillon to arrive mid-season. In 2014, he was supposed to be the sequel to what Gerrit Cole did in 2013. Last year he was expected to arrive in the second half, but his hernia surgery prevented that. The entire time he was watching the Pirates contending, looking forward to the time when he could be part of the mix.
“I think the thing that got me through all the rehab was watching those games and seeing success, and seeing how much fun they’re having,” Taillon said. “I’m not one of those guys who is going to lie and say I’m not thinking about [arriving in the majors], or I’m not looking at that. The reason you go through it all, and the reason I pushed myself so hard after this surgery is to get back, to get up there. I’m in a really good place right now, and if I take care of my business, I think it will be the year.”
Taillon is now fully recovered from his injuries. He was looking great after Tommy John surgery and before the hernia. After returning from the hernia surgery, he threw some bullpens and got into a game during instructs. He said he’s not experiencing any flare-ups or pain from the hernia.
“That’s really not even a thought in my mind anymore,” Taillon said. “It was a painful first couple of weeks after the surgery. I was amazed at how quickly [I recovered]. Going through an elbow, that’s a long rehab. The hernia was so quick.”
As I mentioned in an article on Taillon a few weeks ago, he slimmed down some as a result of the hernia surgery. He decided to keep that weight off, figuring it could help him after two years off the field.
“I figured I haven’t been on the field in two years, so it can’t hurt to slim down,” Taillon said. “I wasn’t carrying a bunch of bad weight, but dropped some body fat percentage, dropped some weight.”
This is all a good sign, as Taillon looked the best he had ever looked this past summer. His mechanics were polished, and he was throwing his fastball down in the zone with little effort. The Pirates definitely noticed the change.
“Jameson was throwing the ball as well as he’s thrown it with us before the hernia surgery,” Neal Huntington said yesterday. “We get out in the instructional league where they said he was throwing the ball very well.”
Taillon will need some time in the minors to get readjusted to upper level hitting. Neal Huntington once again said yesterday that Taillon will start the season in Triple-A. However, his lack of innings the last two years won’t keep him out of the majors.
“Jameson has reached a higher innings threshold, pre-injury, so there’s a comfort level that we’re not pushing into an un-reached level,” Huntington said. “Much like [Glasnow], we will be cognizant of how we’re building up the innings.”
Taillon had 147.2 innings in 2013, plus work during instructs and two innings in the Arizona Fall League. He was also over 140 innings in 2012. That said, you can expect him to have shortened outings at the start of the year in Indianapolis, so that he will be able to pitch in September and October for the Pirates.
This could finally be the year that Taillon arrives in Pittsburgh. If all goes well with his progression, and the progression of Tyler Glasnow, then the two prospects could join Gerrit Cole to give the Pirates an outstanding young rotation for the next few years.