Rain soaks Taillon's first start
West Virgnia Power pitcher Jameson Taillon delivers a pitch to Hagerstown's Bryce Harper in the first inning of Wednesday's game at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, W.Va.
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CHARLESTON, W.Va -- Jameson Taillon walked into an underground storage room in Appalachian Power Park that had been converted into a makeshift studio, filled with cameras, a curtain backdrop and bright umbrella studio lights.
"Sweet Jesus," he said.
Such was the attention the Pirates pitching prospect attracted for his first minor league start Wednesday with the Class A West Virginia Power, a two-inning appearance in a game suspended by rain with the Power leading, 7-1.
Taillon, the right-hander picked second overall in the 2010 draft, allowed one run on three hits against the Hagerstown Suns, a Washington Nationals affiliate. He threw 45 pitches, 30 strikes, walked two and struck out none. Catcher Elias Diaz estimated Taillon's fastball at 96 to 97 mph.
"His fastball was getting there," Diaz said in Spanish, with center fielder Mel Rojas Jr. translating. "It was hard."
Fans and stadium employees braved a tornado watch and stood along the right-field line to watch the 6-foot-5 right-hander warm up. They held their iPhones in camera-ready position as the ball sizzled past 6 feet away.
The Pirates chose Taillon, 19, out of The Woodlands (Texas) High School, where in his senior season he went 8-1 with a 1.78 ERA and struck out 114 in 62 innings. He agreed to a $6.5 million signing bonus Aug. 16. He observed the short-season State College Spikes last fall, threw in the instructional leagues in October and started this season in extended spring training.
"Just some simple things, just using my height to drive the ball down and really stay smooth and easy," he said.
The rain started about 20 minutes before game time, increasing in intensity after the game started. Taillon allowed a leadoff infield single, an RBI double and two walks in the first inning, but got a double play to escape a bases-loaded jam.
Taillon had about 70 pitches to work with, Power pitching coach Jeff Johnson said, but after 30 in one inning he probably would have been removed. He threw 28 in the first inning.
"He probably had one more hitter if he didn't get the double-play ground ball," Johnson said.
Taillon allowed a leadoff single in the second inning as well, but got two force-outs and a flyout to end the inning. Diaz said he lowered his glove behind the plate so Taillon could aim at a lower target.
"I think in the first inning he was kind of anxious," Diaz said. "He was wild. In the second inning he kind of controlled himself pitched good, made good pitches."
Batting third for the Suns was Bryce Harper, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft. Harper was behind the plate when Taillon struck out 16 against Cuba in the 18-and-under Pan Am gold-medal game.
"He's hard-nosed, he has that mentality out there that, 'You ain't getting a hit off me,' " Harper said. "That's huge for a pitcher. He's a great guy, he's a great competitor, and he wants to win."
Taillon walked Harper in the first inning Wednesday.
"I didn't go at him the way I wanted to," Taillon said. "It wasn't an intentional thing, just missed on him. Honestly I didn't get any more adrenaline throwing to him than I did any batter out there."
Taillon will stay on a five-day rotation with bullpen sessions in between. After his next start, though, he'll probably avoid the subterranean news conference.
First Published April 28, 2011 1:16 am