Pirates' Taillon finds groove at Altoona
There was a period last season during which things were not going so well for Pirates prospect Jameson Taillon.
His first seven starts at High-A Bradenton were great, but the team's top pick (second overall) in the 2010 draft slipped into a slump, giving up 28 earned runs in 31 innings over his next six starts.
Taillon was 6-8 with a 3.82 ERA at Bradenton and earned a promotion to Double-A Altoona last August, where he finished strong and has started the same way there this year.
“I was working on some stuff, but really it was just my mental approach,” Taillon said of his midseason struggles. “Just because a guy hits a ball hard doesn't mean I have to switch up what I'm doing or what's been working. That's really what it was last year. Guys would get on base, and all of a sudden I'd think I had to change something up and do something differently when really it's not a big deal. You just keep going at them.”
It was an important lesson — one that others tried to explain to him, Taillon said — but there's often no better teacher than experience.
“I think it's something you just have to learn by going through it,” said the 21-year-old from The Woodlands, Texas. “It was something that, when stuff was going bad for me, everything was going against me. There was some soul searching, and I learned a lot about myself.”
Taillon is 1-1 with a 1.64 ERA this season. He has given up two runs, nine hits, four walks and struck out 14 in two starts (11 innings). After a scoreless debut, he struck out a career-high 10 in a 4-0 loss Friday, including four of the first six he faced.
The Pirates' No. 2 prospect behind fellow right-hander Gerrit Cole also pitched for Canada in the World Baseball Classic in March. Canada didn't advance past the first round, but Taillon said he was honored to have the opportunity.
“It was a great learning experience getting to pitch in front of 30,000 people at a big league stadium, big league treatment, and getting used to facing big league hitters,” he said. “There was something I could take away from every little aspect of it.”
Taillon said he got a lot more comfortable with his off-speed pitches last season. His fastball command was solid, but toward the end of the season he was throwing his curveball for a strike in any count and his changeup when he was in a hitter's count.
“That was a big step for me — not just having good stuff but putting it all together and working hitters and setting them up — so it all kind of started coming together at the end,” he said.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said Sunday he's looking for consistency of emotion, delivery and pitches from Taillon.
“The use of the changeup, the third pitch for him at the major league level, is going to be important,” Huntington said. “The ability to throw the breaking ball for strikes and for (batters to) chase, the ability to do it consistently enough and then commanding both the four-and the two-seamer, it's the script that you write for every young pitcher. He just has the stuff to go along with it.”
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