INDIANAPOLIS – Jameson Taillon has only made two starts this year in his return to Indianapolis, but so far he is looking very polished. In the first start of the season, Taillon appeared dominant in six strong innings of work in Toledo against a lineup that featured a lot of hitters with Major League experience. He struggled a bit in his second outing, which is to be expected when you haven’t faced upper level hitters since 2013. He also faced the same Toledo team five days earlier, giving opponents a second look at him in a short period of time. Despite this, Taillon doesn’t think that you just forget how to get high level hitters out.

“I feel like, whenever you rehab or miss some time, I don’t think you really forget how to execute pitches,” Taillon said. “You might forget, 0-2, runner on third and less than two outs, how to attack a hitter, but I think that you never forget that fastball down and away or good curveball. You don’t forget what it looks like. It is not foreign to me, and I really feel like I belong up here. I am not over my head at all. I feel like I wasn’t behind anybody at all, but it is nice to know that I can still get high level hitters out. These lineups are stacked with big league experience.”

Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor was encouraged by how Taillon started the season.

“I thought [going six innings in the first start] was a huge step forward for him,” Treanor said. “He was very excited about being back out there… I think it means more to be in Indy, the last place he was. I think he is in a good place.”

In the second start, Taillon’s fastball was much more hittable than the first start, so he turned to his curveball more often. Taillon has always been comfortable with the pitch, admitting that the feel for the curve was one of the first things that came back to him after the injury.

“The curveball has always been a good pitch for me, since I was little,” Taillon said. “It is a pitch that, for me, I don’t have to work on quite as much on the side, as I do my changeup. Changeups are a pitch that I always have to work on, with the feel. My curveball is a very natural pitch for me. Creating spin with it is very natural for me.”

He has also shown the ability in his first two starts of the season to snap off a quality curve when it is needed, regardless of the count and situation. He has shown very strong feel and command for the pitch through two games as well.

“It is a big pitch for me with two strikes and early in the count too,” Taillon said. “I can throw it for a strike, bounce it on the plate. Definitely will see a lot of them this year.”

The curve is playing strong early, and the fastball has shown good command throughout Spring Training and in his first start. But Taillon knows that some of his pitches still need some fine tuning.

“[One of the finishing touches] is throwing the changeup more,” Taillon said. “I have a good one, but I need to learn more of what hitters to throw it to, what certain swings you look for that can help me decide when to throw it.”

He also pointed toward controlling the running game and holding runners on base as a key development. With the long delivery, limiting the running game has been a bit of a struggle for the right-hander early in the season. There is also some fine tuning, while looking to maintain that consistent command.

BUILDING TAILLON BACK UP

Taillon’s second start only lasted 4.1 innings, and he was pulled with 89 pitches, due to a hard limit. Treanor said prior to the game that Taillon was only going to pitch a maximum of five innings or 90 pitches, regardless of where he was. The Pirates have hinted that they are going to treat Taillon as any pitcher, but the handling early on has indicated that there may be more to it.

“Obviously, since he hasn’t pitched in two years, we are going to take a more cautious approach,” Treanor said. “Maybe cautious is the wrong word, but we are trying to do the right thing by this guy, making sure that we take care of him and build him. It’s no easy to build back up after two years off.”

Treanor still sees the stuff that had Taillon among the top prospects in the organization and baseball prior to his injury. Even after two years off, he still looks polished and near being ready for the next challenge.

“[Taillon] does look the same,” Treanor said. “He was 94 to 95 [in the first start]. He topped out at that and I was impressed by that. This guy wants to get back to where he was and to get back to where his goals are. He’s going to be a big asset to this organization if he is healthy, built up, and ready to go.”

The sample size is small early on, but Taillon looks polished, with only some fine tuning needed on his changeup, and more experienced needed against advanced hitters. Outside of those adjustments, his innings might be the biggest challenge the Pirates face in promoting him, as it would be easier to control his innings totals in Triple-A early in the season. He will come up at some point this season, and it’s not out of the question that he arrives before Tyler Glasnow. The last outing shows that there are still some things to improve upon, but overall, Taillon has exceeded expectations with where he’s at in his return to Triple-A.

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26 COMMENTS

  1. If Taillon pitches every 5 games in the MiLB and MLB, then he’ll get about 5 starts a month. It looks like he is limited to 5 innings in MiLB but would probably be 6 in MLB. So that would total somewhere between a minimum of 150 and a maximum of 180 innings. Meaning that he would be out of innings by the time the playoffs start. I also don’t think it is a good idea to constantly ratchet up the stress on a recovering arm starting with 2.5 months of ‘easy’ 5-inning outings, moving to two months of 6-inning outings in MLB, and then 1.5 months of stressful playoff atmosphere innings to close out the season as he is tiring.

    Instead why not give him a balanced approach where you bring him up in a few weeks (when you are confident he is ok and ready). And then give him a mid-season demotion/break timed to coincide with a Glasow/Kuhl/Brault promotion. His innings could be reduced in AAA and he could periodically skip a start

    • Cole-Liriano-Niese would be fine for me in the playoffs, if it meant Taillon “just” helped us get there and we shut him down.

      • My issue with your assessment is Niese barely made the Mets postseason roster as a LOGGY and your suggesting we pitch him two games in a 7 games series. That thought process shrinks the window of opportunity. The same way tossing Locke out every 5th day shrinks the window of opportunity.

        • There isnt more than 1-2 rotations in baseball better than the Mets, so yeah some good arms were on the back end. No one in their right mind calls DeGrom a 3rd SP, even though they effectively used him as such.

          Niese is fully capable of being a playoff starter and not losing you a game. If we had Syndergard-Harvey-DeGrom, i wouldnt use Niese either. But thats due to the high quality of those other options and not the terrible quality of Niese.

          You’d have Cole and Lirano for the majority of the series, and you’d be asking Niese to throw 5-6 quality innings while leaning on the 7-8-9 in the pen. The ability to use the back end of the bullpen more aggressively makes SP a bit easier since you have no reason to allow some arms to go 3 times through the order.

    • Glasnow needs a full year and a half in AAA. Taillon will be up this Summer, Kuhl in the Fall, Glasnow next Summer.

  2. Locke has to be on a short leash already. He can’t afford too many more bad outings before Pirates brass reassesses his place in rotation. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Vogie take his place before Taillon gets the call.

    • If anything, that would at least allow for a timeline that the team likes.

      Locke gets 1-2 more chances, if he fails they throw Vogelsong 3-5 starts and if he is totally also useless you’ve now gotten in range of a Super 2 cutoff point where you consider the move to the young player.

    • That reassessment has already taken place. The Pirates were nice enough to give CM a chance to catch on elsewhere, but they are bound and determined to get 2 or 3 new young SP’s up this year, and I would not be surprised if Chad Kuhl leads the way.

      • As far as I’m concerned, Locke has had plenty of chances already and should be pulled from the rotation immediately. No more starts!

    • Vogelsong should replace Locke now. Locke’s experiment with losing his twist during his delivery has failed.

    • I remember the reports of other pitchers being in awe of AJ when he first came to the team in 2012 and his remarkable curve. On one hand it was exciting. On the other hand it was almost sad that no one else on the team had anything matching his stuff to the point it sounded as if they were gawking at what a real pitcher looked like. No offense to staff ace Eric Bedard.

  3. We shall see how he looks over next couple starts but that was looking like the flat hit table fastball he’s battled in the past. Obviously still a lot of rust to knock off.

    • In the few sequences I’ve seen of him so far, it really is amazing how different the fastball plays at the knees vs at the belt. When he gets on top and drives the ball down, he gets enough sink and tail to be visibly noticeable on shitty minor league video, which is impressive. Elevated, though, seem like BP fastballs since he has so little deception in the delivery. Taillon shows the ball so early that he’s probably less effective than the velo would imply.

  4. So if Glasnow is a little hesitant to use his change up and needs more time with it, and Taillon doesn’t have any setbacks, wouldn’t you think he’d be first one up in June if there was a need for more than a spot start? I realize it’s early but other than building up innings I would think he gets the first call.

      • I’m of that opinion too. With the disclaimer I didn’t see the game last night he went into a pitchers park facing a team that’d been shut out 5 times already. I was disappointed to say the least. I really hope it’s just a matter of innings for him.

        • Yes I think he is still feeling himself out. He needs more innings but whoever is ready you know a spot is available.

        • I watched the first 3 innings. It felt like a Charlie Morton inning. Lots of infield hits and bad defensive plays.

            • The ump wasn’t giving him any breaks either… especially on that 2nd walk in the inning. 3 straight balls to walk him were all questionable and in the strike zone.

              • Like I’ve said a thousand times – if he’s not getting the calls on the corner he’s in deep s*** and you can usually see it early. Liriano has the stuff to recover from that where he can issue 5 walks and get away with it at times. Locke doesn’t.

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