ERIE, Pa. — Jameson Taillon threw three innings in his first rehab start as the Pirates’ young right-hander works his way back from surgery to treat testicular cancer.
Taillon threw 49 pitches, with his fastball sitting between 93 and 95 mph. He also mixed in both off speed pitches. Taillon faced 11 batters, striking out six, and allowed just one hit and one walk.
It was the first competitive appearance for Taillon since undergoing surgery on May 8 — just 20 days previous. His last outing, which occurred just before Taillon made the discovery that led to his diagnosis, what a five-inning outing in Cincinnati on May 3.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Saturday that Taillon was not operating under a strict pitch or inning count. Taillon previously thew bullpen sessions of 25 and 35 pitches in preparation for his start.
“It was a pretty good jump,” Taillon said. “I felt like I was in pretty good condition. I didn’t feel too out of shape. Pitches were pretty sharp. I had good feel for my curveball. I had a couple good two-seams. I thought my fastball command came and went, but I think that’s to be expected. I’m pretty harsh on myself. I’m pretty pleased with it.”
Taillon added that he’s feeling physically fine. The incision was small and the surgery didn’t involve cutting any muscles. Basically, the only things he’s going to have to overcome during his rehab are getting back into shape and the mental aspect of having just dealt with a life-threatening illness.
BASEBALL AS THERAPY
Taillon said on Friday that it “felt good” to get back on the mound and that he was looking forward to getting back to work. He said he thought some people might be surprised that he’s returned to action so soon.
“Pitching is what I do; it’s what I want to do,” he said. “It’s therapeutic. The pitching mound is — not to sound corny — where I’m most comfortable. It’s where I spend a lot of my time. It’s my job.”
RETURN TO ROOTS
Though the Curve were on the road, there were plenty of Pirates fans in attendance just two hours up Interstate 79 and Taillon was given a loud ovation when his name was announced as part of the starting lineup.
“It was pretty cool,” Taillon said. “It was exciting to get to do this so close to our home park. There were a lot of Pirates colors, which was pretty cool for me. Through this whole experience, fans have been reaching out. It’s been cool.”
Taillon hadn’t pitched with Altoona since 2013, when he had a 3.67 ERA in 20 games. He also threw three times with the Curve in 2011, including his Double-A debut, which was also in Erie.
Taillon will return to Pittsburgh Sunday night and will throw his next bullpen session there under the watchful eyes of pitching coach Ray Searage on Tuesday. After that, Taillon will make another rehab start, but the location of that start has not yet been determined.
His next turn on regular rest would come June 2. The Curve are on the road against Bowie that night. Triple-A Indianapolis is at home against Gwinnett, so that’s the more likely destination. Taillon is currently lined up with Tyler Glasnow, who will start Sunday night in Pittsburgh, but the Pirates have an off day June 5 they could use to rearrange the rotation.
Catcher Jackson Williams caught Taillon’s start. Williams was in major-league camp this year but did not catch for Taillon in a competitive game. Williams and Edwin Espinal both his solo home runs to left field to give the Curve a 2-0 lead.
Yuedy Garcia, who was Sunday’s scheduled starter, came in in the fourth and gave up a two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth to tie the game. Garcia pitched two innings, giving up two runs on two hits and two walks and had one strikeout. Jared Lakind pitched a 1-2-3 sixth.