For Pirates' Taillon, 'the progress is neat to follow'
BRADENTON, Fla. — Every few days, Jameson Taillon pulls up a homemade video clip of his 20 favorite pitches.
Taillon stares at himself firing one perfect strike after another. The mechanics are smooth, the execution pure.
He's watched the clip religiously for the past 2 1⁄2 months as a reminder of what he was and what he expects to be.
“I try to remember that I am a pitcher and I throw a baseball for a living,” Taillon said. “When you're down here not throwing for 16 weeks, it's easy to forget.”
After starting the season at Triple-A, Taillon, the Pirates' top prospect, by now could have been pitching in the big leagues. Instead, the right-hander is rehabbing at Pirate City, the team's minor league complex, after having Tommy John surgery in mid-April.
It started, as such injuries often do, with minor elbow discomfort during spring training that grew into steady agony. To repair the damage, the surgeon harvested a tendon from Taillon's right leg.
“You go into surgery with a bum elbow and your leg is fine,” Taillon said. “You come out, and you've got a bum leg and elbow. That was the biggest surprise for me.”
Tommy John surgery is no longer a rarity. Pros, college players and even high schoolers go under the knife. Pitchers usually are back in action within 12 to 18 months.
“People think it's so routine, but there's a lot of work that goes into it,” Taillon said. “A lot of pain. A lot of rehab.”
Taillon spent the first few days after surgery getting back on his feet and relearning how to bend his elbow. The joints aren't so cranky these days, but the scars are souvenirs he'll never lose.
The rehab is a seven-days-a-week job. Every other day is devoted strictly to arm care. Taillon arrives at Pirate City by 7 a.m., rides a stationary bike to get his heart pumping, then begins his laundry list of about 20 custom-designed exercises for his shoulder, elbow, forearm, elbow and grip strength. The arm work alone takes about two hours.
“A couple of weeks ago, I could never imagine myself doing pushups,” Taillon said. “Now I'm doing pushups. The progress is neat to follow.”
The days when Taillon rests his arm are shorter. His routine is limited to cardio work and leg exercises.
It's important for Taillon to keep his mind sharp. The Pirates are among the first teams in MLB to use audio tools for mental conditioning during rehab.
Taillon used the first audio track right after his surgery. It was a 12-minute process of deep breathing and relaxation. The next track guided him through the rehab process. Soon he will download the throwing process audio track.
“It's almost like meditation,” Taillon said. “You close your eyes, breathe and listen. It puts you in a good state.”
In four weeks, Taillon will begin his throwing progression. The first step will be soft tossing from 45 feet every other day for two weeks. He eventually will stretch it out to 60 feet, then 75, then 90 and finally more than 100 feet.
After that, Taillon can start thinking about throwing off a mound. He expects to be well into that phase of recovery by the start of spring training next year.
“It takes a while to build up,” Taillon said. “But I don't care if I'm throwing 10 feet or whatever, at least I get to pick up a baseball and throw it.”
Taillon had not touched a ball since a few days before his surgery. There are hundreds of baseballs, big bags full of 'em, all over Pirate City, but Taillon avoided them. He did not want to have one in his right hand if he could not hurl it.
Early Wednesday, as he walked down a long, white-walled hallway to the trainer's room, Taillon spotted a forgotten ball resting on a cart. There was nobody around.
He picked it up.
“It didn't feel foreign in my hand,” he said, smiling. “It still felt pretty normal.”
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Ex-Pirates coach Banister new Ranger in town
- Pirates win bidding for Korean infielder
- Pirates sign Corey Hart to 1-year deal
- Ex-Pirate Parker fights against Parkinson’s with optimistic attitude
- MLB notebook: Pirates’ Liriano gets $2 million bonus as part of 3-year, $39 million deal
- Pirates’ struggling catcher Sanchez sent home from Dominican Winter League
- Pirates notebook: New catcher Cervelli eager to bond with staff