BRADENTON, Fla. — Jameson Taillon’s day is coming.
But Monday, the right-handed pitching prospect was reassigned to the Pirates’ minor league camp to log more innings, refine his changeup and breaking ball, and complete the final steps of his journey to the majors.
“It’s never fun, but I have to go down and get innings and start getting ready for my actual season,” Taillon said shortly after sunrise from his locker at Mc-Kechnie Field. “It was fun to get some innings here. But the reality of it is I need to start getting built up and there’s not enough innings to go around.”
A total of six cuts were made Monday morning.
Infielder Alen Hanson and left-hander Joely Rodriguez were optioned to Class AA Altoona, right-hander Casey Sadler was optioned to Class AAA Indianapolis and infielder Matt Hague and catcher Carlos Paulino were reassigned to minor league camp with Taillon.
“We just had conflicting forces bumping into each other and unfortunately the right move, the more challenging move, is to get Jameson out, get him stretched out, get him built up so he’s ready to help us at some point this summer,” said general manager Neal Huntington.
Taillon has a small blister now, which will set back his next outing, Huntington said.
But his trajectory is expected to play out much like that of Gerrit Cole, who last season made a June debut for the Pirates and by October was handed the ball for one the team’s most meaningful games in 20 years.
For now, Huntington said Taillon needs to work on his off-speed and breaking pitches and on the running game.
“It’s the continued refinement of the changeup, the continued refinement of the little things — controlling the running game, command of the fastball down, the two and four-seam. The ability to throw the curve for a chase and a strike,” Huntington said. “A lot of it comes down to the delivery and controlling his emotions, which he continues to get better at. It’s just consistency.
“The changeup is going to be a big pitch for him because it’ll get people off his fastball and will make his velocity and power sink play that much better.”
Taillon gave up four hits in 22⁄3 innings this spring in two relief appearances.
Spare innings will be scarcer starting this week when starters get stretched to four and five innings.
Taillon said he gained experience from nearly a month in major league camp.
“Last year I think I had a lot of nervous energy, didn’t know where I was supposed to be and didn’t really get in as much work as I did this year,” he said. “I felt good in my first [outing]. Felt a little shaky last one, not used to pitching the seventh inning. That was a little different for me. I felt all right for spring. I’d say at this point right now I’m a little ahead of where I was last year, so that’s a good thing.”
There are now 53 players in camp, which includes 16 non-roster players.
Some action for Jackson
Non-roster invite Jay Jackson, a former ninth-round pick of the Chicago Cubs in 2008, got his second start this spring, facing the Baltimore Orioles on Monday. The club has slotted him into Jeff Locke’s spot while Locke recovers from an injury to his right side.
Jackson said the Pirates have changed his delivery slightly, and he has been pleasantly surprised with the results.
“I have a tendency to run away from the ball and not keep my head still on the target. They have me throwing a little bit more naturally, getting my arm slot down to where it needs to be,” he said. “I can tell I’m staying back more. It feels a lot more comfortable, I’m getting balls down in the zone and I’m getting outs. So it’s really a good thing.”
Manager Clint Hurdle said the club was aggressive in the offseason to bring him into the organization.
“He continues to show us versatility. He has started in the past, closed in Mexico. We’ll continue to see what kind of opportunity is here for him and continue to stretch him, see what he can bring,” Hurdle said.
On Monday, Jackson went two innings, giving up two hits and one earned run on a line-drive home run to right field by Steve Clevenger. He struck out one and walked none.
“As long as they keep giving me the ball, I feel like I’m getting a chance, and as long as I’m getting chances, I’m going to try and take advantage of them,” Jackson said. “I’m feeling really comfortable and relaxed right now, and it’s helping a lot.”
Locke’s status up in air
As for Locke’s injury to his right side, he is still day to day, according to Huntington.
“We’re just trying to get the inflammation out of there, the tightness out of there, before we try to move forward,” Huntington said. “But he’s feeling better each day. Then it becomes a battle against time. How do we get him stretched out and how do we do it smart?”
Locke has an option left and, if time becomes an issue, could be optioned to Class AAA Indianapolis to start the season.
Not all bad for Volquez
Huntington said the club saw flashes of “positive signs” in Edinson Volquez’s first start Sunday when he gave up six earned runs and two home runs. “A couple of bad pitches. Made two mistakes and gave up the two home runs,” Huntington said. “[There] were some flashes very good within that. It’s a matter of refining the changes and making them become more consistent. Still some very positive signs sandwiched around a couple of home runs.”