PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Pirates patiently waited six years for former No. 2 overall draft pick Jameson Taillon to make the major leagues. So far, he’s been worth the wait.
The Pirates didn’t call up Taillon until two months into the season but, thanks to several reshufflings of their rotation, he’s now settled into what effectively is the No. 2 man in their rotation. And it’s taken Taillon only nine starts in the big leagues to do that.
Taillon will make start No. 10 Thursday afternoon against the San Diego Padres after going 2-2 with a 3.29 ERA, 43 strikeouts and only six walks in 52 innings during his first nine starts.
Taillon has been in the majors long enough that he doesn’t feel like a rookie any longer, even though he clearly is.
The 24-year-old Taillon’s latest start was typical of the way he’s pitched to date; he gave up only one run in six innings Friday against the Cincinnati Reds, although he didn’t get the decision in a game the Pirates won 3-2.
"He’s got some tools to work with, and he’s learning more each and every time out there," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "It was another night for him to grow."
Taillon is quickly growing into an irreplaceable piece of the Pirates’ pitching puzzle.
He has allowed only eight earned runs in 30 innings over his last five starts, walking a single batter. Not surprisingly, the Pirates have won five of his last six starts, even though the right-hander was on the disabled list with right shoulder fatigue from July 5-19.
Taillon hasn’t won since June 29 at Seattle, or at all in five starts at PNC Park, but the Pirates are 4-1 in those games.
Taillon will oppose Padres left-hander Christian Friedrich (4-7, 4.76 ERA), who makes his ninth start on the road of his 16 overall starts. Friedrich pitched a season-high seven innings in his last start Aug. 5 vs. the Philadelphia Phillies, permitting four runs and five hits.
Friedrich, like Taillon, is a former first-round draft pick — and one of 13 starters the Padres have used this season.
"For the most part, I thought he was really good all day," Padres manager Andy Green said — with the exceptions being the home run and double he allowed to the Phillies’ Cameron Rupp.
The Padres and Pirates will play for the sixth and final time this season, with the Padres leading the season series 3-2 following their 4-0 win Wednesday behind Edwin Jackson and two relievers, who combined to allow only two singles.
San Diego is one of the more aggressive teams in the majors stealing bases — they’re third in the majors with 99 steals — and that was evident Wednesday as Travis Jankowski pulled off a rare steal of home in the eighth inning.
Jankowski detected that reliever Antonio Bastardo wasn’t watching him closely as the left-hander focused on his matchup with Alex Dickerson, so he took off for the plate and scored as catcher Eric Fryer fumbled Bastardo’s hurried throw home.
"We run the bases with a ton of aggression and steal a lot of bases — but we take what’s given to us," Green said. "That was probably more of a gamble … but it worked out because Travis has the ability to create anxiety in other people when he’s running the bases. He took it upon himself (to go) … and if you’re going to take a chance, that’s the time to take one."