PITTSBURGH -- Right now, Jameson Taillon’s progress is measured in the number of pitches he throws and how far away the catcher squats. So the bullpen session he threw on Tuesday may not sound like much -- 20 pitches, with the catcher behind the plate -- but it meant something
PITTSBURGH -- Right now, Jameson Taillon’s progress is measured in the number of pitches he throws and how far away the catcher squats. So the bullpen session he threw on Tuesday may not sound like much -- 20 pitches, with the catcher behind the plate -- but it meant something to Taillon.
“Every little steppingstone is kind of a big jump for me right now,” Taillon said.
It was Taillon’s fifth time pitching off the mound while working his way back from his second Tommy John surgery and the first time with the catcher fully behind the plate. When he woke up Wednesday morning, he said, his elbow felt great. He said the mechanical changes that he made early on in his rehabilitation feel natural, and he believes his revamped delivery will help him stay healthy in the future.
“And I think the results are going to be pretty nice, too. I think I’m going to have some added deception that I never had before,” Taillon said. “Making a mechanical change when you’re at the highest level you can be at in our game is scary. It’s tough. But it’s something that I had to do.”
Taillon won’t pitch in a game this season, but the Pirates still felt it was worth putting him in their 60-man player pool so he could continue working out with his teammates, pitching coach Oscar Marin and bullpen coach Justin Meccage. He said his plan is to continue rehabbing in Pittsburgh throughout the Pirates’ 60-game season. He can’t travel with the team, so he’ll either work out at PNC Park or drive to the club’s alternate training site in Altoona.
“It’s going to be great when we have everybody back, because Jamo’s our ace. He’s a real top-of-the-rotation ace pitcher,” left-hander Steven Brault said. “Yeah, we would love to have him back. But we also want him healthy for the rest of his career.”
Taillon, the club’s representative in the MLB Players Association, is also an important leader inside the clubhouse -- even when the team is technically divided into two socially distanced clubhouses.
“He's very good for our guys to have conversations with. He sees things,” manager Derek Shelton said. “He has different conversations with Oscar and Mecc about what's going on. He's actively involved in what other guys are doing in their bullpens. And I enjoy having him around because I view him as one of the people on this club that, when I'm talking to him about how things should be and how we want our culture to be, he's a big part of that -- and he's going to be a big part of that going forward.”
Since he can’t contribute on the field, Taillon is looking for ways to help as another set of eyes and a sounding board for his fellow pitchers. He’s familiar enough with his fellow starters that just by watching their bullpen sessions and playing catch with them, he can spot things that might be off.
“Jamo is a really smart and fun guy. If you want to talk to someone about baseball, about what’s going on, he’s your guy,” Brault said. “He’s a good boost for team morale.”
• Corner infielder/outfielder José Osuna said Tuesday was his first day in camp due to a delay in the intake screening process. Osuna was tested for COVID-19 on Friday, but he did not receive his results until Tuesday morning. He immediately reported to PNC Park and worked out Tuesday and Wednesday.
“It’s really hard, because I’ve been in the hotel for five days doing nothing. I was ready to practice Saturday, no later than Sunday,” said Osuna, who spent the time away in his native Venezuela helping needy families in his hometown amid the pandemic. “I’m so happy to be here. I was getting crazy in the hotel like, ‘OK, wait, wait, wait, wait.’ Every morning I’d wake up at like 6:30 and check my phone but nothing yet, nothing yet. I’m good now. I’m happy to be here. It’s where I want to be all year.”
The highlight of Wednesday’s action at PNC Park was a 7 p.m. simulated game started by Joe Musgrove and Chad Kuhl. Musgrove threw five innings, and Kuhl worked two. Lefty relievers Nik Turley and Miguel Del Pozo finished the sim game.
“I think when you see guys put the uniform on -- our pitchers have put the uniform on -- and take it in the intensity they’re going at it, and see our guys going out of the box … it gets you closer to thinking about what it’s going to be like on July 24,” Shelton said.
Musgrove pitched to John Ryan Murphy with left fielder Bryan Reynolds, third baseman Colin Moran, shortstop Erik González and second baseman JT Riddle behind him. Kuhl paired up with catcher Luke Maile, and he was backed up by Josh Bell at first base and Phillip Evans at third with Guillermo Heredia in center field and Gregory Polanco in right.
Special assistant David Eckstein served as a super-utility man of sorts, playing first base behind Musgrove while covering the entire middle infield for Kuhl.
Brault and righty Chris Stratton pitched in a separate sim game Wednesday afternoon. Brault took a Kevin Newman line drive off his backside but stayed on the mound after a visit from the club’s athletic training staff.
• Reliever Nick Burdi said he spoke with Chris Archer about once a week before Archer underwent surgery for neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome, a procedure like the one Burdi had in June 2019. He also sent Archer a box of healthy snacks that he could eat while in the early phase of the recovery process.
“I definitely know what he’s going through right now,” Burdi said. “It’s really difficult. You’re basically on bed rest for six weeks. It’s a tough time, but we were able to talk. I think he’s recovering well, so it’s all trending in the right direction. Obviously the game of baseball needs him back and throwing again.”
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.