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Pirates notebook: Taillon battling elbow discomfort

Rob Biertempfel
| Sunday, March 23, 2014, 5:21 p.m.

SARASOTA, Fla. — Right-hander Jameson Taillon, the Pirates' top pitching prospect, has been shut down with a sore elbow and is unlikely to be ready for the start of the season at Triple-A Indianapolis.

After pitching in a minor league game Wednesday, Taillon awoke with pain in his elbow. He was examined Thursday by a team doctor and an MRI exam showed no ligament damage.

Taillon will seek a second opinion this week. In a text message, Taillon said he was not certain which doctor he'll see for the second examination.

“At this point in time, the ligament is intact,” general manager Neal Huntington said Sunday. “He's just got some discomfort in there. How quickly will it work itself out? We'll have a much clearer picture when he gets back from his second opinion. At this point, we feel positive he's just going to miss a little bit of time.”

When Taillon was sent to minor league camp March 10, he was bothered by a finger blister on his pitching hand. A groin injury limited him to just one outing last year in the Arizona Fall League.

Indianapolis will open its season April 3 at Columbus.

Liriano still sore

Left-hander Francisco Liriano (groin) probably will not pitch in another Grapefruit League game this spring, but might work on the side or in minor league camp.

“We may want to completely control the environment (if he pitches),” Huntington said. “We feel good about where he is now. (Liriano is) not 100 percent, but it's not a major concern for us at this point in time.”

Liriano still is scheduled to be the Opening Day starter, but management is mulling ways to reshuffle the rotation in case he cannot pitch.

“We're all kind of up in the air, depending upon (what happens with) Frankie,” right-hander Gerrit Cole said.

If Liriano is out for the opener, Cole could be the most likely replacement. Sunday, Cole went 6 23 innings and allowed six runs on eight hits — including three home runs — against the Baltimore Orioles.

“It's not fun giving up six runs and three bombs,” Cole said. “I made an adjustment halfway through, started to find my delivery again and went on some really good runs. I would've liked to have not gotten destroyed on my mistakes, but that's the nature of the game.”

Sanchez takes a shot

A pitch by Jay Jackson bounced up and hit catcher Tony Sanchez in the Adam's apple. Sanchez was staggered and slumped to his knees for a minute or two, but remained in the game.

“I'm OK now,” Sanchez said. “But for a couple of seconds there, I couldn't breathe.”

First base battle

Travis Ishikawa started at first base against the Orioles and went 1 for 4 with a stolen base. In the first inning, he took a called strike three with runners on second and third and two outs. In the sixth, he struck out swinging with the bases loaded and none out.

Andrew Lambo was scratched from the travel roster for the Orioles game and instead joined Gaby Sanchez at Pirate City to get some at-bats in minor league games.

Ishikawa is batting .333 in 10 games and Lambo is at .095 in 17 games. Sanchez, who's guaranteed a roster spot, has hit .300 in nine games.

“Travis has caught our attention,” Huntington said. “We try not to overreact, positive or negative, based on spring training performance. We've seen some steps forward out of Andrew, with the quality of his at-bats. In Travis' case, we're seeing good, professional at-bats as well.

“Wherever we end up, it doesn't mean we're set in stone. We can make an adjustment if that's the best thing for the organization weeks or months into the season.”

Planet of the aches

Right-hander Clay Holmes, a ninth-round pick in 2011, is out for the season after having Tommy John surgery. Holmes, 21, went 5-6 with a 4.08 ERA last season at Low-A West Virginia. ... Righty Kyle McPherson, who had Tommy John surgery in June, is throwing off a mound, but isn't expected to rejoin Indy until the middle of this season. “He's made great progress and he's feeling really good,” Huntington said. “We're going to be conservative and be sure to put him in position to be successful.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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