Pirates' Jameson Taillon 'in good place' after first outing
BRADENTON, Fla. – It was only his first spring training game, but Jameson Taillon liked how the ball felt coming out of his hand and how he felt after pitching two innings Monday against the Boston Red Sox.
"I felt crisp, felt like the ball's coming out good," Taillon said. "I feel definitely that I'm ahead of where I was at last year. Strength-wise, command-wise I'm in a good place."
The Pirates are counting on Taillon's place to be at the top of their starting rotation, and his first appearance didn't disappoint. He faced seven batters, retiring the first three before allowing a single and then striking out Sam Travis, Jeremy Barfield and Deven Marrero in order.
"He's showing up. He's focused. He's worked very hard," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "I saw the fastball command improve as the outing went on. He threw some good breaking balls. That was a good step forward for him."
Taillon didn't know what to expect, considering he wasn't happy with his bullpen session, but found a rhythm once he took the mound. He told catcher Francisco Cervelli to call the game how he wanted, relying on competing instead of working on certain pitches.
"I wasn't so sure in the bullpen before, at least to my standards," Taillon said. "I felt like I was bouncing it or hanging it. Sometimes what happens in the 'pen stays there because when you get out to the game the adrenaline kind of picks up your arm speed and helps you get back on track."
Taillon believes he's ahead of where he was at this time last spring, when he had "a tough time" with some of his pitches. Stepping away after the season and working on mechanical cues helped his cause.
"I had a tough time throwing last year two seams to the extension side, freezing lefties with it or throwing two seams early in counts," Taillon said. "Away to righties, that was hard for me. I was closing myself off and fighting myself to make that pitch. And I had a tough time elevating the ball, and I did it successfully a couple times, both of those pitches."
Now, Taillon joked, he has no problem elevating pitches to the middle of the plate. It's more a matter of elevating them to where he wants them.
"If you get a couple times on throwing those, you might get a little shell shocked," Taillon said. "But with a fastball like mine, if I can command it to the right spot, I think that can be a really big pitch for me, especially late in counts.
"My first thing early in my career was to learn to throw downhill and down-angle to the bottom of the zone. I feel like I'm pretty good at that now. I can go in and out well. That's what the Pirates preach, in and out, four up and down and then down. I guess the last piece of the puzzle is learning to throw the fastball up."
Taillon can save working on that for his second outing.
Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.