Pirates’ top pitching prospect Taillon faces Tommy John surgery
Pirates top pitching prospect Jameson Taillon will have Tommy John surgery and miss the 2014 season, general manager Neal Huntington said Sunday.
Huntington said multiple medical opinions confirmed Taillon’s ulnar collateral ligament is intact but “compromised.” A period of rest failed to bring the right-hander any symptom relief, leading to the decision for reconstructive surgery.
“Based on all the information that Jameson was presented with, he opted to have the Tommy John, and we fully support it,” Huntington said. “Typical recovery time is 12 to 18 months, and we’re looking forward to getting him back on the mound.”
Dr. David Altchek will perform the surgery in New York, but as of Sunday afternoon a date had not been set, Huntington said.
Taillon, 22, was shut down during spring training after he pitched in a minor league game and woke up the next morning with pain in his right elbow. An initial examination and MRI by team doctors showed no ligament damage. Taillon visited Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles for a second opinion March 31.
Huntington said while Tommy John is no longer a rarity, it also isn’t a bulletproof solution. Because Taillon doesn’t have an outright tear, the decision was not automatic.
“As we walked through the process with Jameson, educated him, he’s a smart young man and we walked through it with his family and representatives,” Huntington said. “He felt this was the best course of action to get back to full health and stay healthy a long time.”
The second overall pick in 2010, Taillon was expected to begin the season with Triple-A Indianapolis and eventually make his way to the Pirates this season. He was 4-7 with a 3.67 ERA in 20 outings for Double-A Altoona and 1-3 with a 3.89 ERA in six starts with the Indians last season.
Charlie Morton had Tommy John surgery midway through the 2012 season and returned to big league action June 13, 2013, just one day shy of the one-year anniversary of the procedure.
Morton said he plans to reach out to Taillon to share some words of advice and encouragement.
“(I’ll tell him) that this is going to make him better,” Morton said. “Obviously, it’s going to make him feel better physically, and the challenge is going to make him better because he’s a hard-working, intelligent young man. It’s really a shame, but I think he’s going to come out of this a lot better.”
Closer Jason Grilli had Tommy John surgery in 2002 and said his heart goes out to Taillon.
“There’s a lot of work ahead of him. Probably more patience is the tougher part of it (because) baseball’s going on without you, but he’s young,” Grilli said. “He’s a highly touted prospect, and people know what he’s capable of doing. He’s just got to put in the work, and I think he’s going to come back better. It’ll be worth the wait.”
Karen Price is a former freelancer.