Taillon polishing his game

Having great stuff obviously helps a young pitcher succeed, but many young pitchers still have a ways to go when it comes to learning all the ins and outs about becoming a pitcher instead of just a thrower.

Jameson Taillon has great stuff – a mid-90s fastball mixed with superb breaking pitches – but the prized pitching prospect showed more than that in his brief stint with the Curve at the end of last season.

Taillon showed all the intangibles you want in a young pitcher, and it was clear to see in the three starts he made for Altoona why the Pirates have such high hopes for the 21-year-old right-hander.

“Once you come into pro ball, these hitters are pretty darn good,” Taillon, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 draft, said Wednesday by phone from spring training in Bradenton, Fla.

Hitters are too good, Taillon added, to just sit back and fire fastballs.

“Maybe one time through the lineup a good fastball will work,” he said. “But once you’re turning over the lineups two, three, four times, you’ve got to have command, you’ve got to have presence, you’ve got to be intimidating, you have to be able to mix it up, throw everything for a strike, have a game plan, know exactly what you’re going to do. That’s definitely something I take pride in.

“It also definitely helps being able to throw 93-98, which is about what I throw on an average day.”

Taillon spent most of 2012 at high-A Bradenton, where he got off to a great start, struggled mightily in midseason and then finished strong. He went 6-8 with a 3.82 ERA in 23 starts for the Marauders before getting called up to the Curve in mid-August.

Taillon was terrific for Altoona, throwing 11 shutout innings over his first two starts in wins against Trenton and Richmond. He allowed three runs in six innings his last game of the season against Erie but still earned the victory to finish 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA.

Taillon held opposing hitters to a .183 average in his three Double-A starts, giving up only 11 hits in 17 innings while walking just one.

“It was definitely good for him to get up there and experience the [Double-A] level for a bit,” Pirates farm director Larry Broadway said. “There is always an adjustment period to new surroundings and a new league, so he will know what to expect this year when he breaks camp.”

Taillon was in the same Curve starting rotation as fellow prized prospect Gerrit Cole, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft. Those two are considered the future of the Pirates’ pitching staff, and for a few weeks they were together on a high-profile Altoona staff.

“It was fun; me and him are good friends,” Taillon said of Cole. “I’m actually living with him down here in spring training for the time being. We’re good friends off the field, and we talk a lot about baseball when we’re at the park.

“Getting to go up there with him was just fun, and fun to be throwing with him every day. It was fun to go out there and pitch every five days together. He even knew some of the restaurants and stuff to go to [in Altoona], and that little stuff helps.”

Cole will start this season at Triple-A Indianapolis and could be in Pittsburgh by mid-summer.

Taillon spent longer than many expected at Bradenton last year, so it’s anyone’s guess how long he will be in a Curve uniform this year.

“Jameson will be continuing to learn how to use his weapons to effectively and efficiently attack major league caliber hitters,” Broadway said. “He’s got a good foundation and will continue to refine this year.

“He’s matured a lot in the last couple of years, and we are very pleased with his progress and are looking forward to watching him attack upper level hitters for a full season.”

Taillon isn’t sure if he will be in Altoona for this weekend’s exhibition game between the Curve and Pirates. He last pitched Tuesday in spring training, so his next scheduled appearance is Sunday, and the Pirates might leave him in Bradenton to throw there.

Like most players at this time of year, Taillon can’t wait to get out of Florida and start the season.

“I’m ready to get out of here, that’s for sure,” he said. “We’re all really excited to get up there.”