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Pirates pitcher Taillon 'feeling healthy' after testicular cancer surgery

| Friday, May 19, 2017, 6:09 p.m.

The night before his last start May 3 in Cincinnati, Pirates right-hander Jameson Taillon felt, as he put it, “something odd” in his groin.

His outing against the Reds didn't go well — Taillon gave up six runs, and he took the loss. After the game, he mentioned his groin discomfort to the training staff.

Five days later, Taillon had surgery for suspected testicular cancer. Having previously overcome Tommy John surgery and an inguinal hernia, Taillon realized this was a much bigger challenge.

“Not many people feel sorry for you when you undergo an elbow surgery and you're a professional baseball player,” Taillon said Friday. “When you have the word cancer involved, it's a whole other dimension — you're talking life, death, whatever.”

On Friday, Taillon made his first public comments after having surgery to remove a tumor that lab results later confirmed was cancerous.

“I'm feeling good now, feeling healthy,” Taillon said. “We're getting all good news back so far. It will be something I'll have to monitor. It will be something I'll carry with me the rest of my life. It's part of my identity now.”

Taillon was cleared for light workouts, but there is no timetable for when he might return to game action.

“We're going to truly go day-to-day,” Taillon said. “I still have to do bloodwork to make sure my markers are where they need to be. Once we get those results back, that will be time to map out a more strict plan.”

Being back in the clubhouse and around the sights and sounds of baseball has been “therapeutic,” Taillon said. It's a healing touch that works both ways, according to manager Clint Hurdle.

“Real life happens in here. A lot of people lose sight of that,” Hurdle said. “People lose moms and dads. They get sick. They get cancer. They deal with real-life issues. Sometimes, people think this is some type of hallowed ground where none of that permeates, but nothing could be further from the truth. That's why it can be medicinal to come back here, kind of like a rehab.”

Since his surgery, Taillon was in touch with Colorado Rockies pitcher Chad Bettis, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer last fall and recently finished a round of chemotherapy. Cancer survivors Andrew Lambo, Lance Armstrong and John Kruk also reached out.

“It's pretty unbelievable, the tight-knit group that is the Pirates community,” Taillon said. “I had everyone from janitors right up to (chairman) Bob Nutting reach out to me. I got the vibe that they didn't reach out just to wish me well as a player. I think they genuinely care about me, and that goes a long way. That stuff's important when you're going through a hard time.”

Some folks contacted Taillon to say his example gave them the courage to schedule a checkup for the disease. Taillon's cancer was spotted in its early stages, which greatly improves his chances of beating it.

Taillon plans to speak up in the future and be an advocate for early detection.

“It's something guys don't like to talk about,” Taillon said. “Going through the sports hernia surgery, that made me a little more comfortable about dropping my pants and getting inspected by doctors. I lost what some people have called one-half of my manhood, but I feel great. That can't take away your dignity or your pride.”

Note: The Pirates claimed right-hander Jhan Marinez off waivers from the Milwaukee Brewers. Marinez, 28, went 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in 15 relief outings before being designated for assignment Tuesday. Marinez made his debut in 2010 with the Miami Marlins and has put up a 3.63 ERA and a 1.51 WHIP over 68 relief outings in the majors. He throws a slider and a two-seam fastball that averages 95 mph. The Pirates will make a corresponding roster move when Marinez joins the team.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Pirates' James Taillon makes his first public comments since diagnosis and treatment for testicular cancer at a press conference at PNC Park on Friday May 19, 2017 at PNC Park.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Pirates' James Taillon makes his first public comments since diagnosis and treatment for testicular cancer at a press conference at PNC Park on Friday May 19, 2017 at PNC Park.
Christian Tyler Randolph | Tribune-Review
Pirates' James Taillon makes his first public comments since diagnosis and treatment for testicular cancer at a press conference at PNC Park on Friday May 19, 2017 at PNC Park.
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