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Taillon happy to be back competing on mound

Pitching prospect went two innings in Monday's Black & Gold game
MLB.com

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Jameson Taillon tried to compose himself while stepping off the mound at McKechnie Field on Monday afternoon after giving up two hits and a run two batters into the game. His heart was beating fast, adrenaline pumping.

The stakes couldn't have been much lower. But Taillon couldn't have been happier.

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Jameson Taillon tried to compose himself while stepping off the mound at McKechnie Field on Monday afternoon after giving up two hits and a run two batters into the game. His heart was beating fast, adrenaline pumping.

The stakes couldn't have been much lower. But Taillon couldn't have been happier.

The right-handed pitching prospect has been sidelined the last two years by injuries, limited a year ago to back-field games at the club's Pirate City training complex. On Monday, Taillon took the ball to start the Pirates' annual Black & Gold intrasquad game, working two innings in front of the biggest crowd he has seen in two years.

"It was kind of like a little baseball high I had out there," Taillon said. "It was really fun to be out there competing again. I wasn't mad I gave up those hits. I was, honestly, as cheesy as it sounds, just really happy to be out there."

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Taillon, MLB Pipeline's No. 54 overall prospect, started for Team Gold and faced nine batters over two innings. He allowed three hits and one run, hit one batter and struck out three. Before warming up in the bullpen, he asked pitching coach Ray Searage what the team expected out of him.

Should Taillon throw all fastballs, like he watched A.J. Burnett do in his first start last Spring Training? Or should he throw everything, attacking his teammates at the plate to see how it feels?

"They just want to see me go out there and compete, throw everything and kind of treat it like I'm in-season," said Taillon, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 Draft. "Use the full arsenal and go at them."

Before he started throwing to catcher Elias Diaz, Taillon admitted, he was a little nervous. The last time he pitched in an affiliated Minor League game was 2013, for Triple-A Indianapolis. The last time he threw in front of a crowd this big was Spring Training 2014.

Spring Training: Schedule | Tickets | Complete info

Since then, Taillon's climb to the Majors has been delayed by a lengthy Tommy John recovery and an inconveniently timed hernia, which required surgery just as he was nearing a return to the Minors. While working his way back, Taillon refined his mechanics.

Now, Taillon must see how those changes translate to performance in games while the Pirates keep an eye on his workload. He is ticketed for Triple-A to start the season, but the Pirates could call him up later this year.

"We'll monitor him early in the season," general manager Neal Huntington said. "We want to be fair to him and put him in a position to be successful. That's why he could have a lights-out camp and still, in our minds, not necessarily be ready to help us win up here."

Taillon and the Pirates can worry about his future later. On Monday, he was just happy to be back on the mound.

"I definitely appreciate being in the moment, living in the moment," Taillon said. "I kind of understand that a little better now. I took a deep breath and just enjoyed it today. Cheesy, but I seriously enjoyed being out there."

Adam Berry is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Jameson Taillon