After long journey, prospect Taillon makes debut

June 9th, 2016

PITTSBURGH -- Jameson Taillon has pitched in an All-Star Futures Game. He has taken the mound for Team USA and has represented Canada in the World Baseball Classic.

"I've been on some big stages," Taillson said late Wednesday night. "None that mattered quite as much as this."

But Taillon held his own in his long-awaited Major League debut, putting together a quality start in the Pirates' 6-5 loss in 10 innings to the Mets at PNC Park. Taillon, the former No. 2 overall pick and Pittsburgh's No. 4 prospect per, allowed three runs on six hits and two walks while striking out three over six innings.

The 24-year-old right-hander waited his entire life for the opportunity, which came late Monday night when a rainout forced the Pirates to shuffle their pitching plans. But the last few years may have felt the longest, as Taillon worked his way back from Tommy John surgery in 2014 and an ill-timed hernia when he was nearly ready to return last year.

"I never really lost sight of it," Taillon said. "That's kind of what drove me to get out of bed and go to rehab in the morning, do my work, get through sets of arm care and weight-lifting."

Given what he battled through to make it here, the way Taillon used the time down to his advantage rather than lament missed opportunities, it should come as no surprise that Taillon was mostly in control of his emotions on the mound.

Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli offered Taillon some simple advice before the game: "Just have fun. If you don't feel anything in your stomach, you're not from this planet." How'd he handle it?

"This guy's a big league pitcher," Cervelli said. "The way he controls his attitude, the guy's a pro, man."

At times, Taillon looked around the stadium and tried to take it all in -- the beautiful ballpark and field, a bigger crowd than he's used to seeing -- but found the nerves weren't as bad as when he arrived in Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

"I'm used to the routine. I'm used to pitching," Taillon said. "Once I had the ball in my hand, that's something I'm a little more comfortable with."

Taillon gave up two runs on one pitch he'd like to have back, a high fastball that Ty Kelly swatted into the right-field seats to tie the game in the fourth. He gave up another run on a sacrifice fly and left with the game tied after six innings.

Sitting inside Taillon's locker afterward were two baseballs encased in glass: his first Major League pitch and strikeout. He had 11 friends and family in attendance, and he figured one of them would deliver them to his parents' fireplace mantle back home in Texas.

The Pirates, who had left open the possibility that this would be a spot start, optioned Taillon back to Triple-A Indianapolis on Thursday. He wasn't entirely sure of his immediate future on Wednesday night, but there was little doubt this is where he belongs.

"Good to get it out of the way," Taillon said. "I've had the whole family here now, done the whole experience. Looking forward to going to work."