Taillon to miss entire 2020 season despite delay

March 30th, 2020

PITTSBURGH -- has had the conversation with the Pirates’ athletic training staff. Or he’s tried to start it, anyway.

While the rest of baseball is shut down by the national emergency created by the coronavirus pandemic, Taillon is plugging along with his rehabilitation program. As Pittsburgh’s player representative, he was also prominently involved in the negotiations that led to the recently finalized agreement between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association. That deal left open the possibility of a regular season that extends into October or later.

Last August, the Pirates announced that Taillon wouldn’t return to a Major League mound until 2021 after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery. But if Taillon’s rehab continues to progress as well as it has so far, and if the season is delayed long enough, is it possible he’ll pitch this year after all?

In a word: No.

“I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t thought about it,” Taillon said, “but they’ve shut me down pretty quickly.”

There are two factors at play. First, Taillon is coming back from his second major reconstructive elbow surgery, and the recovery timeline is typically 16-18 months. Second, rushing back to pitch late this year would leave Taillon with an abbreviated offseason heading into 2021, which he hopes will be his first full season back on the mound.

“I probably could be ready. The big thing is that, coming off the surgery and coming off No. 2 in particular, if the season gets pushed back into October or November, whatever it is, that would give me a shortened offseason going into next year,” Taillon said Monday during a conference call with local media. “The thinking here, long term, is that we don’t want to risk shortening my offseason and cutting into my offseason rehab, therapy, throwing, all that. I’ve thought about it, but I get shut down pretty quickly every time I bring it up.”

That Taillon can even entertain such a thought is an indication of how well his recovery has gone so far. This time last year, he was two days removed from his first-ever Opening Day start in Cincinnati. Now, he’s pleased to be playing catch from 120 feet, which he said is “right where I need to be.”

Taillon has had to make some adjustments in these unusual times. There’s a skeleton crew of staff remaining at the Pirate City training complex to assist rehabbing Major League pitchers like Steven Brault, Clay Holmes and Taillon. They only visit Pirate City on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and they must have their temperature taken before entering. Due to social distancing guidelines, they must work out in small groups and limit their time in the weight room.

“I’ve had to definitely compromise my program a little bit, but I’m extremely lucky with the Pirates and the organization, they realize the importance of my rehab and the Major League rehab guys that are still here,” Taillon said. “They’ve made us a priority. They’re letting us in and letting us get our work in.”

Around the horn
• During calls to discuss their agreement with MLB, Taillon said players were “pretty receptive” to doing “whatever it takes to get as many games in as possible” this season. That could mean playing more doubleheaders, moving to neutral sites, playing more consecutive games than they’re used to, expanding rosters to prevent injuries caused by fatigue -- just about anything.

“There’s just no bad ideas right now,” Taillon said.

• During a radio interview with KDKA-FM on Sunday, former Pirates pitcher A.J. Burnett -- who retired after the 2015 season -- expressed interest in someday rejoining the organization as a coach or special instructor.

"One thought that always enters my mind about that ‘13 Wild Card Game is that I wish we could have went further. I wish we could have taken it further for the city of Pittsburgh," Burnett said during an interview with host Dan Zangrilli. "So, if I ever had the opportunity to come back and coach and maybe take a team further than we went that year, that would be special for me as well. It would be different as a player than as a coach, but at the same time, I wish we could have went further, man.

“I think [it] may be a possibility that I could come back and be a coach at some point. We’ll see. ... At least show up in spring here and there, hang around the pitchers, do something like that where I could just drop something on them. I feel like I’ve got a little bit to give.”

Following the lead of Pirates players, staff from the Pirates and their Class A Advanced Bradenton affiliate partnered with two pizza places in Bradenton, Fla. -- Fastfire by Oak & Stone and Demetrios’ Pizza House -- and made deliveries to healthcare workers at Blake Medical Center and Manatee Memorial Hospital on Friday.

“The Pittsburgh Pirates and the Bradenton Marauders take pride in being woven into the fabric of this community. During this COVID-19 crisis, we know we all need to join together to help our neighbors in any way we can,” Pirates vice president of Florida and Dominican operations Jeff Podobnik said in a statement. “We are proud to help support local businesses and work to lift the spirits of healthcare workers in Manatee County.”