The Path to the Majors For Jameson Taillon and Casey Sadler

This morning the Pittsburgh Pirates cut six players from Major League camp, including three starting pitchers. Jameson Taillon, Casey Sadler, and Joely Rodriguez were all sent to the minors, which isn’t unexpected, as none of the three were projected to begin the season in Pittsburgh.

“The starters that are in Major League camp, that we project to be starters in the minor leagues, they’re the ones that go out the quickest, and it’s out of their control because we have to get them stretched out, as well as get our own guys stretched out,” Pirates’ General Manager Neal Huntington said.

Sending those guys down now is more about innings. Minor League games start this week, which will give those guys a chance to start games and build up their pitch counts, rather than working one inning in relief in MLB camp, with those relief innings becoming scarce as the Major League starters continue to get stretched out. Out of the three starters, Taillon and Sadler have the best chance of arriving in the Majors at some point during the 2014 season.

Taillon will have his next start delayed with a blister, but will start building up innings soon in Minor League camp. Huntington said that he needed to focus on his changeup, controlling the running game, commanding both fastballs down in the zone, and throwing the curveball for a chasing strike out of the zone. Those were all mentioned, although the changeup was the thing that Huntington mentioned the most.

“The goal is, and continues to be, putting him in position to thrive at the Major League level, and in order to do that, the changeup is going to be important for him,” Huntington said.

Taillon noted that he didn’t get a chance to work on the changeup in the Majors, since he was coming out of the bullpen. He plans to still work off the fastball, but throw his curve and changeup more often in Minor League camp. He also will continue to get comfortable with the two-seam fastball, which is a pitch he’s been working on the last two years.

“The two seam I’m really comfortable with right now,” Taillon said. “It’s a good pitch for me. It’s just a freeing pitch. You don’t have to be too perfect with it, so you can just let it go. Let it do its thing. 95 with some sink is pretty tough.”

Taillon is expected to arrive in Pittsburgh by mid-season, although the Pirates told him that his work and progress would determine his timeframe to the Majors.

“They pretty much just said they’d like for me to be part of the team,” Taillon said. “It could be April, it could be May, it could be September. It just depends whenever I show to them I’m ready. Basically put it in my hands and said I’ll dictate it.”

As for Sadler, he’s not a near-guarantee to make the majors this season like Taillon. Sadler is more of a depth option, and his arrival in Pittsburgh would primarily be based on need. If he’s not needed in the rotation, he could arrive in September as a reliever. For now, the Pirates have him focusing on getting ready for the Indianapolis rotation, and getting on a five-day schedule.

“I felt like I got in, did some good work, learned a lot,” Sadler said of his time in Major League camp. “Learned how to deal with the anxiousness and the excitement of getting to pitch in a big league calibre game.”

Sadler will be focusing on refining his breaking ball, and being able to throw the pitch in specific counts for strikes and strikeouts. He will also be focused on incorporating the changeup more.

“At times it’s really good, and at times it’s flat,” Sadler said of the changeup. “It just comes down to a trust, throwing it, good arm speed, letting it do what it’s going to do.”

Both pitchers should arrive in the Majors this year. Taillon is higher on the depth chart, and will be in the rotation when he is ready. Sadler is more of a depth option this year, and his likely path to the Majors would be out of the bullpen late in the season.

  • Dom DiDominic
    March 10, 2014 5:04 pm

    A few years ago, I drove 2+ hours to watch Brad LIncoln pitch in AAA. He was the best AAA guy we had and the next to make the rotation.
    This year there will be packed AAA rotation with guys that can help in just about every start. AA will be packed with guys that can help. Anyone that does not think Huntington has not done a tremendous job, is just not paying attention.

  • Tim,
    A question came up at OBN about the difference between a player being assigned to a particular team and to the minor league camp.

    • Players assigned to a specific team are guys on the 40-man roster. They have to be optioned to a specific level.

      Players who aren’t on the 40-man roster just get transferred to minor league camp.

      • Thanks for the quick reply Tim. I should have known it but did not read your article thoroughly enough. That’s what happens when a guy is bald and on Medicare.

  • Sadler had some excellent numbers at AA in 2013 – 11 – 7, 3.31 ERA in 23 Starts, but will almost certainly not progress beyond AAA in 2014. Not overpowering, but has an excellent 2 seamer and a 56% GB pitcher. I think 2013 was his first year as a SP and I guess the only thing he could work on is getting his walk rate down below 2 per game.

  • Tim, Have the Pirates limited the number of two seamers that Taillon could throw over the past two year?