Pirates' Taillon, back from cancer surgery, faces Rockies (Jun 12, 2017)
PITTSBURGH -- Jameson Taillon is not coming off shoulder soreness.
He is not trying to work his way back from hamstring discomfort.
The Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander is returning to the mound Monday night to start against the Colorado Rockies at PNC Park exactly five weeks after undergoing surgery for testicular cancer.
Taillon, 25, has been as open and straightforward about what he has gone through as could reasonably be expected. He has spoken publicly about the emotion of hearing his diagnosis and the desire to raise awareness.
He also has gone about the business of getting back to some baseball normalcy.
"I'm pleased with where I'm at," Taillon said. "It starts out, you just hope for any good news about when you'll be able to throw. Once you're able to throw, you hope for any good news about getting on the bullpen mound and get ready for a rehab (assignment).
"Truly, that one-step-at-a-time thing really rings true for me. All those steps added up for me, and here I am."
Taillon (2-1, 3.31 ERA in six starts) made his final rehab start with Triple-A Indianapolis on Wednesday, throwing 97 pitches over six innings. He was 0-1 with a 3.21 ERA over three rehab starts between Double-A Altoona and Indianapolis.
He also threw a 25-pitch bullpen session Friday.
"Physically, mentally, I'm 100 percent," Taillon said. "I'm as sharp as I've been all year. If anything, I had some time to work on things I wanted to get done."
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Taillon's quick path back to the mound was made possible by "trust in Jameson. Different input from different people and making sure we were all comfortable and committed to the information that we were getting, that it was good and it was accurate and that we weren't overstepping or rushing anything. We're just taking the next proper step at the next proper time."
Taillon -- a candidate to be an effective pitcher, if not a No. 1 starter, in the major leagues for many years -- apparently won't have any restrictions, including a pitch count.
Taillon has never faced Colorado.
He and the Pirates (27-35) could have their hands full facing the Rockies (41-24), who lead the National League West and had won seven in a row before falling to the Cubs 7-5 Sunday in Chicago.
Colorado is an impressive 24-11 on the road and 15-3-3 in series.
The Rockies are 17 games over .500 and closing in fast on history. The franchise record is 24 games above .500, set in 2009 when Colorado was 92-68 before losing its final two games of the season.
Left-hander Kyle Freeland (7-3, 3.34 ERA), one of four Colorado rookie starters, is scheduled to start Monday against Pittsburgh, a team he has never faced. He has held opponents to one or zero runs in six of his 12 starts.
He is coming off a strong performance Wednesday in an 8-1 win over the Cleveland Indians. Freeland gave up one run (on a homer) and six hits over 6 1/3 innings. He struck out five and didn't issue a walk.
"Not walking anybody was pretty big for me," Freeland said, according to the Denver Post. "Throughout this season I've had more walks than I would have liked. But (Wednesday) I didn't have any, and I was able to fill up the zone and get (nine) groundball outs."
Manager Bud Black said pitch placement was key.
"I thought, more so than a lot of his starts -- and Kyle's had some good ones -- I thought the ball was down," Black said, according to the Post. "I saw breaking balls down. I saw fastballs down. And when he did elevate, he got it to the right spot. I thought it was well thrown to his style."