Of late, the Pittsburgh Pirates have been remarkable in a rather disappointing way. On May 27, the club was 28-19 and had a 43.7% chance of making the playoffs. Two weeks later, after a sweep at the hands of the St. Louis Cardinals, Dave Cameron cast considerable doubt on the Pirates’ ability to compete this season. Now, after four weeks and a 6-20 stretch, the team’s playoff odds are down to 2.7% in what figures to be a very competitive wild-card race.
Despite the disappointments of June, the Pirates continue to possess a very good, very young core in the form of Gerrit Cole, Starling Marte, and Gregory Polanco. That group provides an opportunity to stay competitive in a way most small-market franchises have found incredibly difficult. The emergence of Jameson Taillon can only help those fortunes going forward.
Still just 24 years old, it would be reasonable to assume that Taillon has been taking a fairly standard path to the big leagues, continuing to move up the ranks as he gets older and has more success. That has not been the case, however. Taillon was actually fairly close to the majors three years ago, at 21 years of age, reaching Triple-A in 2013, with a reasonable expectation of finding his way to Pittsburgh the following season. He was consistently ranked among the top 20 or so prospects since having been drafted with the second-overall pick in 2010.
That 2014 season didn’t go as planned, however, and Taillon underwent Tommy John surgery in April of 2014. A solid rehab and recovery would have put him back on the mound sometime in the middle of last season. While trying to ramp up for the rest of the season, Taillon then had surgery for a hernia, recovery from which kept him out the rest of the season. When he headed back to Triple-A this year, he had not made a competitive pitch in over two full seasons. He didn’t look rusty, though, recording 61 strikeouts and just six walks in 61.2 innings of work for Indianapolis. That earned him a promotion to the majors — and, in light of Pittsburgh’s difficulty in finding reliable and healthy starters, his stay in the big leagues should last a while.
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