Pirates’ Jameson Taillon ‘encouraged’ by elbow news but still far from returning
Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Jameson Taillon, who has missed two months with no timetable for his return, received good news recently when new images of his elbow strain showed healing.
“I’m kind of encouraged by it,” he said Wednesday.
But he is far from pitching in a game.
He had hoped to throw off a flat surface on the Pirates’ previous road trip, but that didn’t happen. Todd Tomczyk, the team’s director of sports medicine, said the plan for the next 10-14 days will be continuing Taillon’s advanced pylometric exercises, with light throwing from 60-70 feet the next step.
“I feel pretty good right now,” said Taillon, who hopes to pitch again this season. “Actually, just in the last couple of weeks alone, I’ve noticed a lot of improvement. It’s responding well to the work we’re doing.”
He said the exercise plan involves “introducing stress back to that area, see how it recovers. Putting a ball in the hand is kind of the final step.”
Polanco headed to Indy
Right fielder Gregory Polanco will start a rehab assignment Thursday at Triple-A Indianapolis. Polanco hasn’t played since June 16, but the shoulder inflammation has subsided and he has been taking batting practice without restrictions.
“We’re encouraged by his progress,” Tomczyk said.
In other injury news:
• Francisco Cervelli (concussion) was cleared to practice, field groundballs, run bases and hit. But squatting behind the plate is not yet part of the recovery plan, Tomczyk said.
Because Cervelli is on the concussion injury list, paperwork must be filed with the commissioner’s office and the players’ association before he can be activated.
“We don’t anticipate a decision to be made until after the All-Star break,” Tomczyk said.
• Shortstop Erik Gonzalez, who has been out 64 days with a fractured clavicle, has played in four games in Indianapolis, going hitless in 11 at-bats.
“It is going to take some time to build back up to major league competition,” Tomczyk said.
• Keone Kela (shoulder) threw in the bullpen Wednesday and is expected to throw a simulated game Saturday at PNC Park.
• Tommy John patients Edgar Santana and Chad Kuhl might throw off a slope late this month or in early August, Tomczyk said.
Since June 14 and before Wednesday, the Pirates pitching staff led the majors with a 3.23 ERA, helping the team outscore opponents 103-54 in the previous 16 games. The league still was leading the Pirates, 438-399, for the season.
Manager Clint Hurdle said the improvement hasn’t happened by accident.
“You have to come up with a plan. You don’t walk around with wands and hit everybody and say, ‘Play better,’ ” he said. “Hope is not a game plan. Hope is not a strategy.
“Each one of our coaches takes it upon themselves to isolate one thing. Then, we’ll go on to one more one thing. We don’t give them a sheet of five things to work on. Nail that one thing, and then we’ll go on to something else.”
The other Pirates All-Star
Tomczyk was chosen to work with the National League’s medical staff at the All-Star Game on Tuesday in Cleveland, where he will join Josh Bell as the Pirates’ only representatives.
“He’s got a good clubhouse feel. It’s nice he’s getting acknowledged,” Hurdle said. “The All-Star Game is for All-Stars. Todd’s an All-Star.”
Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .