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Pirates notebook: Taillon passes on pitching in World Baseball Classic

| Monday, Jan. 9, 2017, 8:15 p.m.
Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon throws during the first inning against the Cubs Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon throws during the first inning against the Cubs Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016, at PNC Park.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Jameson Taillon turned down a chance to pitch for Canada in this year's World Baseball Classic.

“It's a great experience, and I had a lot of fun doing it (in 2013),” Taillon said Monday. “It was the right thing for me to do back then but not now. I need to concentrate on (the Pirates).”

Four years ago, Taillon turned in a superb outing in Canada's 9-4 loss against the United State in the WBC. The right-hander, who at that point never had pitcher higher than Double-A, worked four innings, gave up two runs (one earned) on four hits, struck out three and walked one.

Taillon's decision was welcome news to Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage, who worries that the WBC puts pitchers at a higher risk of injury.

“I've seen it over the year, guys cutting short their rest periods for the winter and speeding up (workout routines),” Searage told MLB Network Radio. “You're leaving yourself open to an injury during the (regular) season because … instead of firing off in April, you're firing off in March. It happened to two of our guys; that's probably why I have a bad taste in my mouth.”

In 2013, closer Jason Grilli and left-hander Wandy Rodriguez battled injuries during the season after pitching in the WBC.

The Classic generates a lot of hype and some revenue for MLB.

Outfielder Andrew McCutchen and catcher Francisco Cervelli already have confirmed they will play in the WBC. Outfielders Gregory Polanco and Starling Marte might be selected, too.

“It's like that Catch-22 thing — you're danged if you do and you're danged if you don't,” Searage said. “If any of my pitchers ask me (for permission), I would say no.”

Taillon, who is working out this week in minicamp, will be busy this spring tightening his grip on the No. 3 spot in the rotation. But he'll keep his options open if Canada asks him to pitch in a future WBC.

“I told them to keep me in mind down the line,” Taillon said.

Kang update

Huntington was vague on whether third baseman Jung Ho Kang, who is facing drunken driving charges in South Korea, will be with the team for the start of spring training.

“We are working through (things) as if he will be here,” Huntington said. “We're still working through the process with Major League Baseball. (MLB) is driving the process at this point. Once that takes place, then we'll move forward from there.”

Kang is awaiting the results of his evaluation by MLB's Treatment Board, which could recommend he enter an alcohol abuse treatment program. Since 2009, he has been arrested three times for DUI.

Outfield a mystery

Huntington ducked a question about the outfield alignment next season. McCutchen is expected to be shifted to a corner spot, with Gold Glove winner Marte taking over in center field. McCutchen has given no indication he would embrace such a change.

“We're still working through the process,” Huntington said, without elaboration.

Coaches promoted

Last month, Justin Meccage was promoted from Double-A Altoona pitching coach to minor league pitching coordinator. He replaced Scott Mitchell, who was elevated to the newly created role of senior pitching coordinator.

“As we've worked through how to best impact our pitchers, we recognized that the old-school pitching coordinator role probably (takes more than) one person now,” Huntington said. “The opportunity to have two guys make an significant impact will benefit all of our pitchers in the system.”

Meccage and Mitchell are considered possible successors to Searage.

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

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