Taillon fans 3 over 2 strong frames in debut

Nova focuses on offspeed stuff in first spring outing

February 26th, 2018

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Before he took the mound in the third inning Monday afternoon, offered catcher a blank slate. Call whatever you want, he said.

"The time to work on stuff is over," Taillon said. "Now it's about competing."

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The right-hander delivered in a strong Spring Training debut, allowing only one hit -- a ground-ball single up the middle -- and striking out three in two scoreless innings.

"He's focused. He's worked very hard," manager Clint Hurdle said. "I saw the fastball command improve as the outing went on. He threw some good breaking balls. It was a good step forward for him."

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But there is a balance to be found in Spring Training, especially this early and particularly for players who have roster spots secured. That's why threw everything in his arsenal, with a focus on his offspeed offerings, as he allowed three runs (one earned) on three hits in two innings of the Pirates' 13-2 loss to the Red Sox at LECOM Park.

Yet Nova spent most of his time afterward talking about his offspeed offerings, particularly the changeup he wants to use more effectively against right- and left-handed hitters this season.

Since 2011, Nova's changeup usage had never topped 5 percent in a season. Until last year, that is, when 9.7 percent of Nova's offerings were changeups. According to Statcast™, opponents hit .333 with a .635 slugging percentage against the pitch.

"That's something I had in mind that I have to work on," Nova said.

Taillon has a few areas of improvement in mind as well. He'd like to mix in more four-seam fastballs at the top of the zone, especially late in counts, and better utilize his two-seamer away from right-handed hitters and inside against lefties. He believes he's at the point of his career where he can make those fine-tuning adjustments.

"I feel definitely ahead of where I was at last year, strength-wise, command-wise. I'm in a good place," Taillon said. "I feel mechanically like I'm allowing myself to make some different pitches that I wasn't able to last year."

Injury update

Right-hander Joe Musgrove (right shoulder discomfort) threw a 20-pitch bullpen session on Sunday and said it went well. Musgrove reiterated that the decision to cut short his throwing session on Feb. 18 was a precautionary measure. He is expected to throw a 25-pitch bullpen session on Tuesday.

Reliever A.J. Schugel remains shut down after exiting Sunday's game due to right shoulder discomfort. Outfielder is receiving a second opinion on his lower back, which has kept him out of workouts since last Tuesday.

Around the horn

• Closer , making his first appearance Monday, did not finish the third inning. Rivero allowed three runs (none of them earned) on a hit and a walk while recording two outs.

, who started in left field, hit a solo homer to left-center in the second inning. stole second base and scored on Josh Bell's single in the third and finished 2-for-3.

• Hurdle, the front office and the coaching staff met with Joe Torre, MLB's chief baseball officer, to discuss a number of rules-and-regulations issues, ranging from replay reviews to the new guidelines regarding mound visits.

"Very informative. We covered a lot of ground," Hurdle said. "It can be challenging now for a really good catcher. I think it puts you at a competitive disadvantage, because a really good catcher can make some very strategic mound visits. Those are limited now, so we've got to find another way."

Up next

Left-hander is scheduled to start for the Bucs against Braves right-hander Mike Foltynewicz at 1:05 p.m. ET on Tuesday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. will bat leadoff and play left field, will play third base, and three players competing for a bench spot -- Jordan Luplow, and Max Moroff -- are also expected to start.

The game will be broadcast via an exclusive webcast and on Gameday Audio.