During the Stephen Strasburg commotion of 2012, I remember the Braves talking about why they’d waited to put Kris Medlen in the rotation until late July. Medlen, you might recall, went 9-0 in his 12 starts from July 31st on, with a 0.97 ERA and an 84/10 K/BB ratio in 83 2/3 innings, and though I’m not a Braves fan and am filling in blanks on my own here, I suppose people were probably wondering why they’d waited so long to put him in the rotation since they only ended up losing the division by four games to the Nats. I remember Fredi Gonzalez’s response, though, and it was basically that they wanted Medlen on a pitch count due to his arm issues, and they knew that the moment that the put him in the rotation it was going to be impossible to take him out.
I have sensed a similar sort of battle going on with the Pirates and Jameson Taillon this spring. The Pirates’ desire to protect Taillon’s arm is obvious, and it’s obvious why they want to do it given his lack of innings the last two years. At some point, though, the obvious needs of the team have to be considered, and now that we’ve all had our glimpse of Taillon, I can’t imagine how the Pirates will go back.
After having some command issues in his debut last week against the Mets, Taillon hammered the strike zone last night (61 strikes in 91 pitches), and used his heavy fastball to induce a bunch of grounders, with just enough curveballs mixed in to keep the Mets off balance. On the whole, it reminds me a lot of Gerrit Cole’s early starts; great stuff and great command, but not a ton of strikeouts due to basically using a two-pitch mix. Taillon threw a handful of changeups last night, and it’ll be interesting to watch how his usage of that pitch changes after batters adjust to what he did last night.
Eight innings of two-hit shutout ball on the road is just what the doctor ordered for the Pirates after that brutal end to their ridiculous May 13-June 12 schedule. We look at Gerrit Cole’s start against Noah Syndergaard at CitiField last year as the date that the season turned on a dime for the Pirates, but baseball seasons don’t actually turn on a dime. They turn one game at a time, and all of the perceived momentum is applied with hindsight. For a team with bullpen issues, you need a start like this one to win a game and lay the groundwork for a second one. It’s time to go back to where the Pirates were a month ago, after all those losses to the Cubs: win the game in front of you, and worry about everything else as it happens.
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