It has been quite the journey for Jameson Taillon is his professional baseball career. After being selected by the Pirates No. 2 overall in the 2010 MLB draft, the high school pitcher from Texas by way of Canada quickly rose through the system, reaching AAA Indianapolis by 2013. Though it seemed he would be on his way to the majors by mid-2014, that was not in the cards. Instead, Taillon would have Tommy John surgery on his throwing arm in April 2014, effectively ending his season before it even began. As he tried to rehab following the surgery in preparation for the 2015, Taillon was sidelined again, this time with a sports hernia that was so severe it would cost him the entire 2015 campaign.
After nearly a two year delay, Taillon finally debuted for the Pirates on June 8, 2016, going almost pitch for pitch with the New York Mets ? Noah Syndergaard. The Canadian-American pitcher was the shot in the arm the Pirates rotation desperately needed. He brought stability in his 18 starts during his rookie campaign, and though he finished the season a modest 5-4, he only gave up more than four runs in a start once at Milwaukee in late August. Taillon posted a 3.38 ERA, the best mark of the team among guys who started at least 15 games. Coming into this season, it looked for certain that the right hander would take the next step in his development towards becoming the ace of the Pirates rotation. After posting a 2.08 ERA in April, fans were ecstatic about the success of their young pitcher. Then May happened.
During the Pirates’ road trip in Cincinnati, Taillon made the startling discover of a mass on one of his testicles. Though he had experienced occasional groin pain in the offseason, the 25 year old merely took it as possible minor re-aggravation of his sports hernia injury or he had just went too hard on leg day. After making the discovery on May 2, Taillon was scheduled to pitch the following night. That start against the Reds would be the worst in his professional career to date. He was shelled for six runs including two home runs in five innings. After the horrible start, he alerted Pirates head athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk about the lump. Team officials worked quickly to try and diagnose Taillon’s ailment, setting him up with ultrasounds at PNC Park and then Allegheny General Hospital. The results came back: Testicular cancer. Doctors scheduled surgery to remove the lump on May 8, the same day he was scheduled to make his next start against the Los Angeles Dodgers. After the surgery, Taillon posted a note on Twitter thanking everyone for their support.
— Jameson Taillon (@JTaillon19) May 8, 2017
Though the cancerous lump was removed, the right hander will still need regular blood tests every three to six month in order to see if the cancer lingered in his system. Initially, it remained a mystery when he would be able to return the Pirates this season. Obviously, returning from a cancer scare is a bit different than returning from just some regular old upper or lower body injury. Colorado Rockies pitcher Chad Bettis was also diagnosed with testicular cancer in November. Unfortunately for him, the cancer spread, forcing the Rockies to put him on the 60 day disabled list. Unlike Bettis, Taillon’s cancer did not spread, meaning no chemotherapy would be required this time around, making a return this season possible. Nearly three weeks after his surgery, he was making his first of three rehab starts in the minors, allowing only one hit in three innings of work against the Erie Seawolves. And though he looked shaky in his final start in the minors against the Toledo Mudhens, by all accounts, Taillon was ready to be back on a major league mound.
Five weeks after the scare of his life, Taillon returned to the Pirates on June 12. His first start back was not against any cupcake team, rather one of the best offenses in the National League in the Rockies. In five innings of work that night, Taillon looked like he hadn’t skipped a beat, shutting down the potent Colorado lineup for only five hits and no runs. Simply incredible if you ask me. The Cubs were able to knock around him a bit in his next start, but against the defending World Series champs, this wasn’t much of surprise even though they have struggled so far this season. He would rebound against the Cardinals, giving up two runs in six innings while striking out a season-high seven batters.
It is simply amazing that a pitcher who was not sure of his future less than two months ago is throwing this well. Just look at his last start Thursday night vs Tampa Bay when he was matched up with one of the best young pitchers in the American League in Chris Archer. Taillon has already gone toe-to-toe with the one of the best pitchers in the junior circuit when he faced Chris Sale in his first start at Fenway Park for the Boston Red Sox. And like his start against the Red Sox, he found his way into a few jams over the first couple innings, However, the right hander was able to battle out of it, showing the calmness of a veteran. Though he wasn’t able to outduel Sale, he was able to beat out Archer, who picked up the loss in the 4-0 Pirates win.
In my opinion, the Taillon return from cancer should be one of the bigger stories throughout Major League Baseball this season. And though it has garnered its fair share of attention, it dwarfs in comparison to the coverage Aaron Judge and Cody Bellinger have received for their outrageous home run totals to start 2017. I get it, they are in the two biggest media markets in the country and everyone loves homers, but what Taillon is doing is simply inspiring. To be able to not only come back from a cancer scare, but to be able to pitch at the same high level he did before his diagnosis is incredible. Hopefully as we continue thru the dog days of summer and Taillon continues to pitch like the future ace he is turning into, this story gets the national coverage it deserves.