PITTSBURGH — It would be understandable, given what he’s gone through this season, if Jameson Taillon was ready to be done.
After a shocking cancer diagnosis and subsequent surgery cost him five weeks of the season and interrupted what had been a sparkling start to his second season in the majors, Taillon settled in for the long grind and had a reliable, if not spectacular rest of the 2017 season.
With the team’s fate fading around him, Taillon also suffered a reversal of fortunes in the month of August. In six starts, he had a 6.60 ERA and allowed an .896 OPS against.
In his first start in the month of September against the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday, Taillon seemed right back to his old self. He gave up three hits and no runs in six innings while striking out four.
It felt like a good capper on Taillon’s season, as the Pirates look to give some of their starters rest, and give some younger guys like Steven Brault and Tyler Glasnow a chance.
But Taillon is not done yet. He wants to go out and finish the season strong, and with the innings he already missed earlier in the season, the Pirates seem to be willing to let him do it.
“I do think there’s a benefit in him being able to finish with a little traction,” manager Clint Hurdle said.
Hurdle also added that he thought going through the rough stretch in August and getting it figured out could be a good lesson for Taillon to learn. He was the first of the current crop of young Pirates to come up last season, but it’s easy to forget that he’s still on his first full major-league season.
“Sometimes men, I do believe, have their opportunities for their greatest growth through adversity,” Hurdle said. “He’s had his fair share of it. I think Ray (Searage) and him were able to identify something in the delivery, which got him back on top of the ball the best we’ve seen in a while.”
Taillon was asked about fatigue at this point in the season and instead explained that he’s actually feeling stronger now than he was in the wake of his cancer treatments earlier this year. That’s what led to the necessity for adjustments with him and Searage.
“I’ve actually felt physically the best I have all year, so with that comes a little extra energy in my mechanics, which makes the ball flatten out,” Taillon said. “We’re kind of just involved in the basics, getting the ball out on time and creating and angle to the plate that makes it tough to pick up.”
With the emotional roller coaster of a year, from his own medical issues to the team’s disappointing finish, Taillon just wants to put himself in the best place possible for 2018. He thinks that involves a strong finish to this year.
“It’s big,” he said. “This is my first year going start to finish in the big leagues. I want to finish strong. I want to go out on a high note. Each start is an opportunity for me to learn something new about what I do and my craft. I want to put up some results and I want to keep improving so that next year, I can be even more confident … I want to finish strong. There’s 25, 30 games left. This is a really good opportunity to put my foot down and go into the offseason on a high note. I want to keep working, put in the work between my starts and finish strong”