For Pirates' Jameson Taillon: Pressure is a Privilege

As Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon enters his first full season with the big leagues, the weight of anticipation has given way to a need to deliver.

photos courtesy of the Pittsburgh Pirates


With the Florida sun beaming down on the fields of the Pittsburgh Pirates’ spring-training complex in Bradenton, Fla., pitcher Jameson Taillon sits on a bench outside the clubhouse having yet another conversation about expectations for the upcoming season.

He’s been here before — literally and figuratively.

2016 was Taillon’s first “healthy” season in nearly two years, after being sidelined in 2015 with a sports hernia and in 2014 with elbow damage (which required Tommy John surgery).

As the 2017 season dawns, Taillon, 25, reflects on the differences between last year — when he wasn’t yet expected to be a difference-maker in the major leagues — and this year, when the Pirates are relying on him to perform.

“There were a lot of uncertainties,” he says of entering spring training last year. “I was confident ... but I hadn’t pitched against someone in a different-colored jersey in two years. So, I was just as curious as everyone else — how am I gonna pitch? Am I still going to be good?”

Before the injuries, Taillon wasn’t merely good. The second overall pick in the 2010 entry draft was so good that the Pirates plucked him away from Rice University, where Taillon already had signed a letter of intent, with a $6.5 million signing bonus — the sixth-highest ever, according to Baseball America. 

As it turned out, yes, Taillon was still good in 2016.  

​Taillon started the season with the Pirates’ AAA club in Indianapolis, where he went 4-2 in 10 starts with a 2.04 ERA. He received his first major league call-up June 8 against the New York Mets; it was a spot start, but an injury to Gerrit Cole midway through the month led to Taillon’s return to Pittsburgh and addition to the rotation.

He remained there for the duration of the season.

He made a decent showing with the Pirates for a rookie, going 5-4 in 18 starts with a 3.38 ERA. But he fell short of being the savior for which die-hard fans were hoping. With starting pitching still providing the biggest questions for the Bucs — who had a disappointing 2016 campaign — there is no shortage of pressure on the guy nicknamed “Jamo” to put up better numbers this year.

As the 2017 season begins, however, the doubts and uncertainties in his own head have been silenced. Taillon says he is excited to shed labels such as “prospect” and “injured player looking for redemption” for the chance to write a new storyline for himself as a major-league starter.

“I’ve come to spring training in the past being the guy who wants to prove I’m worthy of being in major-league camp,” says the Florida-born, Texas-raised right-hander. “This year all that’s out the door and I get to prove that I’m a major league starter. I get to prove that what I did last year wasn’t a fluke ... It feels good. I’m excited to go to work with these guys.”

​Taillon enters the 2017 season as one of few players “set in stone” on the Pirates’ roster. It’s quite a burden on a guy entering his first full year as a major leaguer — but that’s nothing new.

“I’ve had pressure on me, high expectations, pretty much my whole life, so I’m pretty used to it,” says the 6’5”, self-described “big goal-setter.” “I think people are going to expect more out of me. But as far as I go, I’m a pretty chill guy. I’m just going to do my own thing, keep my head down and knock out starts.”

That’s exactly what Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle wants.

“It’s all about leading when it’s time to lead,” he says. Hurdle, who bristles when asked about his expectations of his players, explains that with Taillon, he’s more concerned with “how he’s going to approach his four days without the ball” than the numbers he puts up when he pitches.

To that end, Taillon’s routine between starts is front-loaded with physical activity — lifting, running, stretching and throwing. It ends on a cerebral note — shifting into “compete mode,” studying scouting reports and applying his game plan for the next start.  

“He’s not a rah-rah guy — he’s a doer,” Hurdle says. “He listens so well, he’s an intense competitor ... there’s a lot of good fabric to work with.”

​Taillon credits his father with instilling that work ethic, which has seen him through some difficult times.

“I don’t talk much, I’m not cocky, I’m not announcing to the world what I’m going to do — I just stay quiet and do it,” he says.

It’s the kind of attitude that will serve him well as he finally gets his chance to step onto an MLB mound and deliver for his team — ideally, from April through October.  

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow TagsEdit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Watch: The Terrible Towel and 45 Years of Steelers Nation

Perspectives from Franco Harris to Joe Manganiello.

Yinzers Eating Chicken Wings Are Going to Be on TV

Mt. Washington’s Bigham Tavern is the latest ‘Burgh eatery to host a film crew.

Madeline Bakery and Bistro to Open in Wilkinsburg

The French-inspired bakery will feature croissants, cookies, bread and more.

32 Years Celebrating Pittsburghers of the Year

As we honor the 2017 Pittsburghers of the year, take a look back at the previous honorees and their significant, unforgettable contributions to our city.

Wish a Steeler a Speedy Recovery in a Big Way

An oversized get-well-soon card for Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier is waiting for your signature Downtown.

Watch: Who is Faster on a Zamboni? Crosby or Malkin?

Sid and Geno love to compete, especially against each other. This time, the future Hall-of-Famers climbed aboard Zamboni machines for a race across a parking lot.

2017 Pittsburgher of the Year: Kelly Frey

No one would blame the veteran WTAE anchor if she took time off while undergoing intensive breast cancer treatment. Instead, she chose to use humor and grace to educate and inspire others, all while in the public eye.

Steelers Can't Ease Their Patriots Pain Until January

Much as they’d like to, the Steelers won’t be able to exorcise the ghosts of AFC Championship Games Past, even with a win on Sunday.

Green Medicine: The Business of Medical Marijuana

For many, medical marijuana is a panacea capable of alleviating a wide range of symptoms. As Pennsylvania begins allowing the drug’s medical use, patients are relieved — and business is booming.

Restaurant Review: Casbah Still is Rocking

More than 20 years into its run, Casbah remains one of Pittsburgh’s most relevant restaurants.