INDIANAPOLIS – Sunday marked the two-year anniversary since Jameson Taillon went under the knife and had Tommy John surgery. He was expected to celebrate the milestone with his first start in Triple-A since the surgery, but was pushed back due to three straight postponements for Indianapolis. Triple-A is where Taillon left off when his career hit a freeze in 2013.
Taillon has grown so accustomed to rehabbing, that preparing for the start of a season felt like a new experience.
“Coming in this year, they didn’t treat me any different in the spring,” Taillon said. “I just got to go out there and prove that I am healthy and ready to go and have fun on a baseball field again.”
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle seconded the sentiment about preparing for the season rather than just rehabbing, and is pleased with what he has seen so far.
“[Taillon is] strong and had a good spring,” Hurdle said. “He’s had a healthy spring. Most importantly, he’s been able to pitch and work on pitching, not rehabbing.”
Taillon has the stuff back that made him a top prospect, and said that just making it through the spring without anymore setbacks was a key to him.
“[The biggest takeaway from the Spring] is that I am healthy,” Taillon said. “I haven’t been healthy in a couple of years. I went in with high expectations. I put in a lot of work over the past couple of years. I was pleased with how I felt and how much feel I had throwing. I threw a lot of strikes, felt healthy, felt crisp. I am ready to go.”
In the spring, Taillon was sitting between 93-96 MPH on the fastball in minor league games in camp. He was also effectively getting the ball down in the zone and had a fluid delivery. His breaking ball also had the same sharp break as before he was injured.
While Taillon said that he is naturally a patient guy, he also admitted that he really struggled at times being away from games and from a team in general. However, he said that he re-channeled that into fuel to the fire to get back, even if that was not as soon as his plan had in line before last season’s sports hernia.
“I got my hopes really high to contribute last year,” Taillon said. “In ’15, I did all my rehab to do that and then had another rehab to go through. I really channeled everything toward 2016. I thought that I used my time wisely and got better. I used it to work and did not sulk on it. If it was going to happen to anyone, I felt like I was a good one to have it happen to. Just mentally, I thought that I was strong enough to take it on and get something out of it.”
Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor thinks that a key is doing just that, enjoying being back in the game while still not trying to do too much.
“[Taillon] is throwing the ball really well,” Treanor said. “It is two years away [from the game]. You try to get him in the frame of mind that he can’t make up for those two years by trying to go out here and doing more than he can do, or to try to hurry the process. We are going to be careful with him on pitch count, innings, those types of things. I think they are going to map that out for him [in Pittsburgh]. I just want him to be excited to be back out there on the mound and get that feeling back. He is a competitor and to let him go out there and compete. Let the innings take care of itself. Let the process take care of itself and not get ahead of himself.”
While he confirmed that there would be an innings limit this season, Treanor did not elaborate on that amount. Taillon mentioned in his remarks a number of 180 innings, but did not confirm that was the number. If that is the case, a 180-inning limit would be consistent with other pitchers returning from Tommy John surgery.
Taillon said that having the experience at Triple-A already would be important to him starting the season at the level, even if it was two years ago and just six starts. He said that he knows that he can get Triple-A hitters out and got some of the “learning starts” out of the way.
Additionally, he knows that Triple-A is just one level shy of his dream. For Taillon, this season is about make the dream a reality.
“This year has the chance to turn from [Tyler Glasnow and myself] being prospects to being able to dream of what we can become and hopefully start proving what we can become,” Taillon said. “I hope it is taking that vision into reality.”