Taillon: 'This season’s probably a wash for me'

Righty to be examined Monday; Polanco still dealing with shoulder injury

July 25th, 2019

PITTSBURGH -- was the Pirates’ most effective starting pitcher and was their most productive hitter last year. Both of their seasons are in jeopardy after receiving concerning injury news earlier this week.

Taillon, who will be examined by Dr. David Altchek in New York on Monday, admitted on Thursday that “this season’s probably a wash for me” due to a right elbow flexor tendon strain.

Polanco, who visited Altchek earlier this week, may not be done for the year -- but he’s not going to rush back again and risk further injuring his surgically repaired left shoulder.

“I’m not happy at all because I obviously want to be on the field helping the team and playing, what I like to do,” Polanco said. “Right now, the shoulder is still really tight. My range of motion is not there.”

Injuries aren’t solely responsible for the Pirates’ current record. However, there is at least a chance that two of Pittsburgh’s most valuable players from a year ago will combine to play only 49 games this season -- 37 1/3 innings from Taillon and 167 plate appearances from Polanco. And neither was playing at 100 percent even when healthy enough to take the field.

The Pirates still hope to have both back next season, but they won’t know Taillon’s status for certain until next week.

Taillon’s throwing program was shut down earlier this week after he felt symptoms in his forearm flare up again. This pain, Taillon said, feels similar to the injury that forced him to stop pitching after May 1. He is optimistic that Monday’s appointment will reveal only a flexor/pronator issue in his forearm, not an elbow injury.

Altchek performed Taillon’s reconstructive elbow surgery in 2014. If it’s only his forearm, Taillon could be back in six months. Another Tommy John surgery likely would keep him off the mound until 2021.

“We’re hoping it’s more forearm. That flexor strain, it’s the same symptoms I’ve been feeling,” Taillon said. “So we’re just hoping it’s the same thing that we’ve seen on images in the past. We’re not 100 percent sure, but I’m kind of holding out hope and crossing my fingers that it’s just the flexor still.

“I’ve had some time this year to wrap my head around it. I’m kind of just excited for whatever’s next, get a clear plan and progression in place. I feel like I’ve kind of been stuck in a gray area for a while now. Now, I feel like I’m getting closer to have a final plan, decision, something in place and I can be a little more confident going forward. Whatever it is, I’m just ready to attack it and get moving back in the right direction.”

In the meantime, Taillon is reviewing biomechanical information to find flaws in his throwing motion. Whenever he returns, he’ll adjust his routine to create more flexibility in his hips and back. Eventually, he’ll shorten his arm path to take the stress off his elbow.

“I’ve come to grips with whatever it is,” Taillon said. “I’m ready to start healing, getting back and hopefully get ready for next year. If I have to pivot from that mindset, I will and I’ll be back, and I’m going to find a way to get better through this and not just use it as downtime.”

The Pirates will have a better feel for Polanco’s timeline when he tries to swing a bat after this period of rest, stretching and anti-inflammatory treatment. Polanco left no doubt that his April 22 return to the Pirates was too soon after his September shoulder surgery.

“I wanted to play. I wanted to help the team,” Polanco said. “Sometimes things don’t go the way you expect.”

He doesn’t regret what happened then, but he has learned from it.

“Obviously, I want to be there, not at 50 percent,” Polanco said. “When I come back to play, I want to be 100 percent.”

Roster move

Before Thursday’s series finale, the Pirates optioned right-hander to Triple-A Indianapolis and recalled to provide a fresh arm for their bullpen. McRae held St. Louis scoreless over 1 2/3, allowing 1 walk and no hits in the Bucs' 6-3 series finale loss at PNC Park on Thursday.

Such a move was necessary after starter recorded only five outs in Wednesday’s 14-8 loss to the Cardinals. Escobar relieved Lyles and needed 60 pitches to get six outs. By the end of the night, the Pirates had asked position players Jose Osuna and Jacob Stallings to cover three innings on the mound.