Taillon, Pouncey lined up for second night

Jameson Taillon will be on the mound, and Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey will be on the concourse signing autographs, so tonight’s Curve contest will provide some insight into what fans prefer to pay attention to when they go to a minor league game.

Taillon is the Pirates’ prized pitching prospect, while Pouncey is perhaps the best center in the NFL. On any other night, the focus undoubtedly would be on the pitcher, but on this rare occasion, Taillon likely will have to take a back seat to the star visitor.

Pouncey will sign autographs for two hours during the game. The Curve can only hope he fulfills the entire two-hour commitment, unlike last year when fans were disappointed by Steelers receiver Antonio Brown leaving after signing for only a little more than an hour.

Taillon originally was scheduled to start Thursday night’s home opener, but the Curve were rained out Wednesday at Akron, pushing him back a day.

The 21-year-old Taillon is no stranger to being the center of attention, having enjoyed a stellar amateur career that helped make him the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 draft.

To his credit, Taillon has been able to remain grounded despite all the attention and money – a $6.5 million signing bonus – he has received in his brief pro career.

“When I first signed into pro ball, that was something that took some getting used to was seeing my face on a magazine, and I’d be like, ‘Man, that’s me,’ and it was kind of that wow factor,” Taillon said.

“Now when people say certain things or I see myself on a magazine, not to be cocky or anything, but it’s just you know what, I’ve worked for it, I’ve put in the time and hours, that is me, and I’m not lucky for being here. I’ve worked my butt off to get here, and it’s something I’ve kind of started to embrace.”

Taillon says he’s “super driven internally to be the best I can possibly be,” so that remains his focus, not basking in the celebrity he’s already attained.

“People will say I’m such a good player or whatever and I’m going to be a big part of the Pirates, [and] it’s obviously good to hear that,” Taillon said. “But it’s something I don’t really take much stock into because I’m not where I want to be yet, and I’m always pushing myself to get better and I do have a lot of people who keep me grounded.”

Taillon made three starts with the Curve late last season and went 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA. He was sharp in his season debut Saturday at Erie, throwing five shutout innings to improve to 4-0 in Double-A.

One thing scouts talk about with Taillon is how polished he is as a 21-year-old pitcher, and he noted the factors that helped him in that regard.

“When I was younger I was blessed with a lot of talent, and I worked my butt off with my dad out in the back fields, the Little League fields,” Taillon said. “I was out there long hours just working out.

“When I was younger I also played up a lot. I played older kids, I had older brothers, so I’ve always been around older guys, so I guess I matured a little younger as far as a pitching standpoint goes.”

Taillon said the jump to Double-A actually plays to his advantage as a pitcher compared to high-A.

“The hitters up here are a little more polished, they take a little bit more, they look for a specific pitch, and if it’s not their pitch they’re taking it,” he said. “So that matches up with my game style a little more.

“I throw a lot of strikes, I pound the zone and mix it up, and in the lower levels – don’t get me wrong, they’re talented guys – but they’re just up there looking to hack and swing at anything.”