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Taillon debuts, Steelers' staff visit camp

@adamdberry
March 12, 2019

BRADENTON, Fla. -- For the first time this spring, Jameson Taillon stared down from the mound on Tuesday afternoon and saw a hitter wearing a different uniform. And for the first time this spring, he turned around and saw his teammates behind him. Taillon made his Grapefruit League debut in

BRADENTON, Fla. -- For the first time this spring, Jameson Taillon stared down from the mound on Tuesday afternoon and saw a hitter wearing a different uniform. And for the first time this spring, he turned around and saw his teammates behind him.

Taillon made his Grapefruit League debut in the Pirates’ 10-4 loss to the Twins at LECOM Park. Pittsburgh’s Opening Day starter allowed three runs on five hits and struck out two over four innings, then he threw another inning in the bullpen.

“More than anything, it felt good to have my teammates out there behind me,” Taillon said. “It was nice to not only face guys with another jersey, but to wear the same jersey as all my other teammates that have been playing in games for the first couple weeks.”

Before Tuesday, Taillon had been pitching in simulated games at Pirate City. The controlled environment gave him a chance to work, and he took advantage of the opportunity. Taillon tweaked his changeup -- which he only threw 4.6 percent of the time last season -- to make it a bit slower. If that work pays off, he will have a legitimate five-pitch mix.

“Since I don’t throw it a ton, I’ll even throw it to my own teammates and they’ll kind of look back at me like, ‘You throw that?’ or ‘Why don’t you throw that more?’” Taillon said. “If it’s one more pitch I can put in someone’s head, that’s extremely important. Might get some quick outs with it and be able to go deeper into games.”

Taillon also tightened up the slider he unveiled last year, transforming it into more of a cutter. He saw some of the fruits of his labor on Tuesday, getting a handful of whiffs on his changeup and freezing Lucas Duda and Michael Reed on sliders in the second inning.

Taillon will have time to make two more starts in Florida before facing the Reds on March 28 at Great American Ball Park.

“I feel like I’m in a pretty good place,” Taillon said. “I feel strong. Delivery feels clean. My pitches feel pretty good. No. 1 is just going to be building up.”

Lyles exits early
Right-hander Jordan Lyles exited Tuesday’s game after only two innings due to cramping in his right side. He downplayed the issue, calling it “a little precautionary,” “nothing serious” and “nothing to worry about.” Lyles felt some tightness during his second inning of work and decided not to return for a third after speaking with the Pirates' training staff.

Lyles felt good about the way he pitched, allowing one run on a Tyler Austin sixth-inning homer. He used his four-seam fastball up in the zone, mixed in his curveball and found success with a rare front-door cutter to strike out Reed.

General manager Neal Huntington said on Tuesday that Lyles has the “inside track” for the fifth spot in the Bucs' rotation, but Lyles isn’t worried about where he stands at this point of the spring.

“I feel like I just need to do what I need to do,” Lyles said. “I’m going to be prepared to be the best Major League pitcher I can be. That’s where my head’s been this spring.”

Around the horn
The Pirates ran out something close to their Opening Day lineup on Tuesday, specifically Adam Frazier and Starling Marte’s placement atop the batting order. They went a combined 3-for-6 with three RBIs and two runs. Marte also walked twice.

“They did some nice things up there,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “On base, productive, scored runs, drove runs in. It’s good to see them both in play.”

Four big leaguers took part in Minor League games at the Pirate City complex on Tuesday. Late-inning relievers Felipe Vazquez, Keone Kela and Richard Rodriguez each worked an inning. Vazquez threw 23 pitches and struck out two. Kela threw 18 pitches with one strikeout. Rodriguez threw 15 pitches with two strikeouts.

Rehabbing right fielder Gregory Polanco had five plate appearances but did not play the field. He went 1-for-4 with a walk and a strikeout.

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and general manager Kevin Colbert made their annual visit to Bucs camp on Tuesday. Tomlin spoke to the team before the game.

“It’s always good for all of us to have him. He’s a fan,” Hurdle said. “We peeled back a lot of layers with them today. Mike’s very impactful. I love seeing him. I love seeing Kevin Colbert as well. He had a bunch of his posse with him again. It was a good day for everybody.”

Up next
After enjoying their final scheduled Spring Training off-day on Wednesday, the Pirates will return to LECOM Park on Thursday to host the Phillies at 1:05 p.m. ET. Right-hander Trevor Williams is scheduled to start for Pittsburgh. Francisco Liriano, Nick Burdi, Clay Holmes and Brandon Maurer are also expected to pitch. The game will air on AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.