BRADENTON, Fla. – After spending over six years talking with Jameson Taillon about the adjustments to his game and what he needs to do to reach the majors, I thought that this Spring Training would mark the end of things we had to talk about. Taillon’s transition to the big leagues was about as seamless as you’d expect. All of his work to overhaul his delivery paid off. He made a switch to a two-seam fastball right before his promotion, and that gave him the final boost. It looked like everything was working for him last year, leaving little reason to change.
Then again, I should have known better. Taillon isn’t the type of guy who gets content with his game. He’s the type of guy who always looks for improvements.
“I’m always working on something,” Taillon said. “Always tinkering going on.”
Earlier this week, I saw that The Pitcher List talked with Taillon and discovered he was playing around with a new changeup.
Here's a screenshot of what he told me about his Changeup grips pic.twitter.com/2mv7pvhMII
— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) February 21, 2017
Taillon was throwing his four-seam fastball about 75% of the time and his two-seam about 25% of the time when he threw a fastball in the minors. In his final Triple-A start, he switched that up and tried the two-seamer 75% of the time, with the four-seamer now becoming the situational pitch. It worked for him, as the two-seamer had the same velocity and so much more movement. But this also led to a need for a switch with the changeup.
When I was talking with Pirates Senior Pitching Coordinator Scott Mitchell this week about Tyler Glasnow’s changeup, he said that the Pirates prefer to match up the changeup grip to the fastball grip. If a guy throws a four-seam fastball, he uses a four-seam grip on the changeup, and vice-versa with the two-seam fastball. Taillon previously threw a four-seam to match up with his fastball, but now that he was throwing a two-seamer more often, he needed an adjustment.
“That in itself was a pretty big switch,” Taillon said. “I didn’t have much time in the season to mess with my changeup grip to pair it up. That’s kind of a goal of mine right now. I’ve been messing with it in catch a little bit, and yesterday I went into live BP and kind of said ‘Screw it.’ The only way to find out if it’s any good or if it’s going to work is by throwing it. So I went out there and threw it and it looked good.”
Taillon got some good feedback from hitters on Tuesday in his first opportunity to throw the pitch against live batters. He went with catcher signs, rather than signaling his own pitches, so that batters wouldn’t know what was coming and could give an honest reaction. The reaction was that the spin of the pitch matches up with his two-seam spin, and definitely has more movement than his four-seam changeup.
The goal for Taillon is to be able to throw strikes with the two-seam changeup, which is something he can already do with the four-seamer. He also had times where the new changeup was moving too much, and he’s had times in the past where he cuts the pitch or it sinks.
“I’m trying to re-create the pressure points and the exact grip of my four-seam on the two-seam and just basically spin the ball around and match it up,” Taillon said. “It’s pretty much the same grip as my two-seam fastball.”
Here is a look at Taillon’s four-seam changeup grip:
And now the two-seam changeup grip:
As you can see, the grip is pretty much the same, with the one exception being that the fingers are closer together on the seams. That might change, since Taillon said he’s focusing on playing around with the pressure points. He’s embracing the movement of the two-seam, so that it matches his fastball and adds some further deception. He’s still “trying to throw the heck out of it” and trying to throw it downhill and down, also matching the two-seam fastball.
The deception is there and the comfort is there, which are two things you want from a changeup. Now it’s about getting the same command of the pitch that he had with the four-seam changeup, and getting the proper movement and action. If all of that goes well, then Taillon will fully make the switch to his new changeup, and drop the four-seam changeup.
“Yesterday was the first time I’ve thrown it to actual hitters,” Taillon said. “I threw it for strikes, got swings and misses, ground balls. We’ll just build off that and see where it goes. If it doesn’t work, then I’ll just stay with the four-seam.”