Bob Smizik: Loss of Taillon a blow to Pirates' pitching depth

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Pirates pitching depth took a serious hit today with the word from general manager Neal Huntington that top pitching prospect Jameson Taillon will undergo Tommy John surgery in the near future and be out for 12 to 18 months.

That’s a worse-case scenario of Taillion missing all of the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

Huntington said the team seeks to error on the side of caution in these surgeries. Even if Taillon is able to begin throwing early in 2015, he’d not likely be able to make the move to the MLB level. The likely scenario for Taillon would be a major-league debut in 2016. A best-case scenario would be late in 2015.

Taillon is the Pirates' No. 1 or No. 2 prospect, along with Gregory Polanco, and their top pitching prospect. He was expected to open the season in Class AAA Indianapolis and if all went well, and there was a need, join the Pirates in midseason.

Taillon first experienced elbow discomfort in spring training.

“My velocity was up, and everything was really sharp,” Taillon told of his March 19 start

 “I threw well. I was really pleased with it, and I woke up in the middle of the night and had pain that I had never felt before. I figured that was when I should say something is when it just felt completely out of the norm and I couldn’t fake throw anymore.”

Days later, Taillon had an MRI.

“The ligaments are all good," he said at the time. "There’s nothing there, which is really good news. I’m going to go get a second opinion, and we’ll go from there. The early word is just there’s a little inflammation and a bone there in my elbow. Nothing too, too serious.”

He was very optimistic.

“They kept saying how big and strong the ligament is, and how there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. Obviously with pitchers catching [Tommy John] this week like the cold, that was good to hear. We’ll just treat it, and see what happens.”

The second opinion was not revealed until Huntington broke the news today on his radio show. It clearly differed from the first opinion.

That positive scenario turned ugly in a matter of weeks and the Pirates' future is a bit more dim as a result.

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