PITTSBURGH — Of all of the Pirates’ starting pitchers, Jameson Taillon might have had the best 2017 debut. The Pirates lost, 3-0 to the Red Sox on April 5, but Taillon went seven scoreless innings, giving up five hits and striking out six.
After a spring full of tinkering and fine-tuning his approach on the mound, the challenge going forward for Taillon will be to put his first start success in a bottle and repeat it every five days.
“I liked the way I threw in Boston,” Taillon said. “Not just results-wise, but feeling-wise, the way the ball was coming out. The curveball playing into the fastball. I’d love to bottle that up and take it out every time.”
Taillon is only 25 and will be making just his 20th major-league start on Tuesday, but manager Clint Hurdle said he approaches the game like a much more experienced player.
““He’s got a very special mindset,” Hurdle said. “It’s very simple. He doesn’t overcook the pregame meeting. He relies heavily on the catcher in the game planning. He has a feel for things, however, he tries to keep as many things off his table and execute pitches. He has a very focused determination out there that’s unwavering at times.”
What Taillon does focus on is keeping things the same from one start to his next, all the way down to the pregame meal
“I know the feeling that I want to replicate,” he said. “I know the feeling of how it comes out. I know what it looks like. The best way to achieve that is to do the same thing between starts every time. I don’t want to lift 400 pounds of squats [one day] and then 200 pounds the next. Any change in routine whatsoever, whether it be sleep, hydration, diet, anything can throw you off. So I just try to replicate the same thing and stay in the same routine.”
Pitching coach Ray Searage said that when things are going well, it’s up to Taillon to keep them going that way. When there’s an inevitable adjustment to be made, that’s when Searage jumps in.
“He’s a professional,” Searage said. “He knows it’s going to be from start to start and he’ll make adjustments if he needs to.”
Wade LeBlanc’s 5.1 innings of relief did more than save some bullpen arms. According to Hurdle, he very likely saved some people their roster spot for today’s game. If Hurdle had run through the entire bullpen on Monday, he would have needed to bring some players up.
“Guys that have experience at this level, they understand the role and they appreciate the fact that they can be on a club that understands the role,” Hurdle said. “There are games that get away from you where one guy goes out there and kind of wears it. Pitch the innings. It’s not about the numbers. He’s got to get outs and provide volume to stay away from other guys and keep the roster intact.”
“I was joking with the guys that I want to get through the season with seven relievers,” LeBlanc said. “Whatever I can do to help make that happen, I’m game.”
Game 7: #Pirates (3-3) vs Reds (5-2)
Jameson Taillon vs Rookie Davis
— Alan Saunders (@ASaunders_PGH) April 11, 2017
Hurdle said the Felipe Rivero may or may not be available after getting his first game of the season off on Monday. Obviously, LeBlanc will not pitch. Trevor Williams and Juan Nicasio would be able to handle a multi-inning role. … Josh Harrison (right calf) returns to the starting lineup. … Cincinnati starter Rookie Davis is making his second MLB appearance. He gave up four runs on five hits with two walks and four strikeouts in five innings against the Philadelphia Phillies last Thursday.