PITTSBURGH -- After the 2010 draft, Jameson Taillon met reporters in the conference room at PNC Park as an 18-year-old full of hope and promise. He was the second overall pick of that draft -- the Pirates first choice.
Six years later, he returned to the same room, still full of hope and promise, but now a much wiser man. A wiser man that will start Wednesday against the New York Mets in his major-league debut.
“It’s a little sweeter now,” said Taillon, who was 4-2 in 10 starts with Class AAA Indianapolis. In 61 2/3 innings there, he struck out 61 batters, while walking just six and allowing 44 hits.
“This is the same room as I was in after I got drafted in 2010. As a young 18-year-old, I don’t think this is a path I saw myself taking but it’s the path that was dealt for me. That makes it sweeter.”
Taillon’s path includes stat line for the past two years of “Injured -- did not pitch.” In 2014, his season was lost to Tommy John surgery. In 2015, it was sports hernia surgery.
“One of my best traits is my work ethic,” said Taillon, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound right-hander. “When I got the results from my MRI 2014, I just said I’ll just come back strong for 2015. Then when I got the sports hernia in 2015, I just put myself in position for 2016.”
And now it’s 2016 and he’s in the big leagues -- maybe sooner than some expected because of the lack of innings, maybe later than some fans thought it should be. Regardless, the biggest factor in his return may be something as random as his bad luck with surgeries.
The rainout Monday night that forced Tuesday’s doubleheader was a major factor in his promotion.
“We were going to need another pitcher somewhere involved in this process,” said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. “We’re capitalizing on this being Jameson’s day to pitch.
“We do believe he has worked hard and this opportunity is his -- his four seam fastball, the play of the curveball, the angle, the downhill, the command of his pitches, the ability to throw his secondary pitches in offensive counts, that all plays in to it. It will now have an opportunity to play out in a real world environment. I’m happy for him, I’m proud of him.
“What we considered was the growth and the body of work he did in Triple-A, plus the need we have.”
The length of Taillon’s stay in Pittsburgh has yet to be determined on this trip because of that need. There are few doubters he will be here a while, but how long he stays this time is a question mark — especially considering the recent struggles and inconsistencies of Francisco Liriano and Juan Nicasio.
“This isn’t an opportunity where he can just twirl it and stay,” Hurdle said. “There are things in his control and things outside of his control.
“Francisco Liriano can now use an extra bullpen based on what he has been going through. There may be a hidden lining in that he didn’t pitch for two years -- he has a full tank of gas.”
It’s a full tank of gas that has been waiting for its chance to be used. All indications are that it is ready.