Second time's a charm for Pirates' Taillon

jlembo@bradenton.comFebruary 18, 2014 

BRADENTON -- This time last year, Jameson Taillon was getting the lay of the land.

Or to be more specific, the lay of Pirate City, where one the baseball's top pitching prospects was taking in his first big-league camp.

Taillon is back in camp this spring, manning a locker not far from established big-leaguers such as Jason Grilli, Russell Martin and Andrew McCutchen. But following one of the most eventful years of his young life, the 22-year-old who was born in Lakeland is taking a different approach than he did last February and March.

"Getting to face more and more upper-level guys and learning how to to attack them with my stuff, that will be big for me," Taillon said following Monday's workout at Pirate City. "And another thing I'm looking forward to this spring is getting to know the catchers, getting to know the guys, getting to know the coaches and work with them and get on the same page with everybody again."

Considering he made 23 of his 26 starts in 2012 with the high Single-A Bradenton Marauders, big-league camp served as more of an introduction of sorts for Taillon last spring. And he treated it as such, soaking up the atmosphere of a big-league clubhouse while making one Grapefruit League start that lasted two innings before he was assigned to minor-league camp.

That's about to change for Taillon, who heads into 2014 ranked as baseball's 16th-best prospect by

"The opportunity to pitch will be heightened this spring," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "That of itself will be the thing he's looking forward to most, and we're looking forward to see, as well."

Taillon may not have logged

many innings on the McKechnie Field mound last spring, but he did do plenty of pitching, totaling more than 147 innings capped by a six-start stint with the Pirates' Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis.

He also pitched for Canada at the World Baseball Classic and struck out Ryan Braun, Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino during a game against Team USA before suiting up for the Scottsdale Scorpions of the Arizona Fall League.

"I packed a lot in," Taillon said.

His stay with the Scorpions was a short one, however, when he pulled his groin. Not wanting to take a risk with one of the jewels of their farm system, the Pirates removed Taillon from the Scorpions' roster after just two innings.

"We just went on the side of the caution since I'd already thrown a good amount of innings," Taillon said. "When I first started (throwing again), I thought about it a little bit. Once I realized after a couple of throwing sessions it didn't hurt, I just completely forgot about it, honestly."

Consequently, the Pirates are excited to see what they will get from the guy they drafted out of The Woodlands High School in Texas with second overall pick in 2010.

"He's a very astute young man. He listens well, he practices sharp," Hurdle said. "Just more opportunity on the mound to see what he can do with that -- the fastball command, the secondary pitches, how they play, how his overall posture, his rhythm works when runners get on base, how does he handle control of the running game -- all that type stuff."

Taillon and another first-round pick, Gerrit Cole, have been pegged as the future anchors of Pittsburgh's rotation. Cole broke through with the big club last season, winning 10 games and helping the Pirates reach the playoffs for the first time in 21 years.

Is Taillon next?

"I was really excited for him. I don't know if it motivated me," he said. "I'm already extremely, extremely motivated to get up there, and that's been my goal since I've been little."

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