Like Cole last year, Pirates pitcher Taillon is work in progress
BRADENTON, Fla. — Things have moved quickly for Jameson Taillon since he signed with the Pirates as the second overall pick in the 2010 draft. Yet, the key to him reaching the majors this year could be an ability to slow things down.
Last week, Taillon reported to spring training knowing he'll likely make his big league debut sometime this year. It won't happen in April, though.
Barring a slew of injuries to the Pirates' veteran starting pitchers, Taillon will open the season at Triple-A Indianapolis. When management believes he's ready, Taillon will get the call.
It's the same situation Gerrit Cole was in a year ago. Cole was one of the final cuts from spring training camp, went back to Indy, then was called up in June.
“There's a little anxiety and anticipation,” Cole said. “You want to prove to yourself that you can go up there and do it, and everybody wants it to happen now. But you have to slow it down and take it day to day. Then by the end of the year, you're surprised by how fast it went.”
This is Taillon's second time in camp with the Pirates. He was among the first group of players sent to minor league camp last year, but management wants to take a longer look at him this spring.
“He's got the stuff to pitch in the big leagues right now,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “But there are still lessons the game teaches. He went through some of them last year at Triple-A. It will be good to see him again in major league spring training and give him the ball a little bit more. We've still got some work to do to refine and put him in a position to come up.”
The top items on Taillon's checklist are gaining consistency with his breaking ball, repeating his delivery out of the stretch and controlling the running game.
“If he's going to pick a little to first base, it can't take away from the quality of the pitch,” pitching coach Ray Searage said. “You've got to be confident that you can hold the ball, hold that runner at first base and you also can locate that pitch — throw it for a strike in a certain count, do what you want with it.”
That's the same list of tasks the Pirates gave to Cole last year. It also was a teaching moment for Taillon, who shares an apartment with Cole in spring training.
“I watched what Gerrit did last year, and I listened to what he said,” Taillon said. “There was no doubt he knew he was getting close. He kept his head down, tried not worry about it and stayed on that narrow path. That's what I'm trying to do.”
A dogged competitor, Cole was visibly agitated the day he was sent back to minor league camp. He chuckled when asked how Taillon might handle his reassignment this year.
“He's probably a little more level-headed than I am,” Cole said with a grin. “But he's taking the same approach I did last year: He's here for a reason, and as long as he's in camp, he's got a shot to make the team. He's got to take care of business, and he's off to a good start.”
Note: Third baseman Pedro Alvarez reported to Pirates camp Sunday. The first full-squad workout is Tuesday morning.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
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