Jameson Taillon, though just 25 years old, had to stop for a moment and ponder his mortality last month.
The Pittsburgh Pirates was diagnosed with testicular cancer two days after his first loss of the season May 4 against the Reds at Cincinnati. Suddenly, getting scuffed for six runs in five innings didn’t seem like a very big deal.
“You hear cancer and you think the worse,” Taillon admitted last weekend. “I think that would be anyone’s natural first reaction.”
Yet Taillon only thought about the worse for a moment. He is a positive thinker by nature, even after missing the 2014 and 2015 seasons while recovering from surgeries to reconstruct his right elbow and repair a hernia.
“I just started thinking about how long it would take for me to come back and the pitch,” Taillon said. “Next season? The All-Star break?”
It turned out Taillon missed just one month and four days after undergoing surgery May 8.
He was back on the mound for the Pirates on Monday night, looking none the worse for the wear, as he battled through five scoreless innings in a 7-2 victory over the National League West-leading Colorado Rockies in the opener of a three-game series at PNC Park.
Taillon scattered five hits and walked a pair of batters. However, he also had five strikeouts and held the Rockies hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position.
The usually calm-and-collected Taillon admitted to having a case of the nerves.
“It was pretty similar to my debut,” he said. “Shaky legs. There was emotion but it was good emotion out there.”
Josh Harrison gave Taillon an early cushion with a two-run home run in the first inning to open the scoring, following a leadoff walk to Max Moroff.
“To see Jamo got out there and do what he did tonight was special,” Harrison said. “I think all of us were happyto see him back out there and playing the game he loves.”
Though Taillon made three rehab starts in the minor leagues, he wasn’t particularly sharp
“He pitched well,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “His command wasn’t anything close to what we’ve seen in the past. He went out there and he pitched. It was fun to watch. He had to roll up his sleeves and go to work.”
On this night, though, just seeing Taillon back on the mound was good enough. That he pitched five scoreless innings in the process made it so special that even the Rockies had to laud his effort.
“He came back from some tough circumstances and pitched a good ballgame,” Colorado left fielder Ian Desmond said. “Good for him. He did a good job against us and it’s nice to see him come back so strong. That being said, hopefully we get him the next time we see him.”
Taillon wouldn’t want it any other way. While he would like to become an advocate for early testicular cancer screening, he just wants to get back to being the No. 3 starter in the Pirates’ rotation behind Gerrit Cole and Ivan Nova.
“I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me or say I’m that guy had cancer,” Taillon said. “All I wanted this whole time was to get back into a regular routine, pitch every five days. It’s obviously important to speak out and use my platform in a powerful way. But, for me, right now, pitching every fifth day will be important.”
The way Taillon looked Monday night, there is no reason to think he won’t return to being one of the Pirates’ stalwarts.