Pair of top Bucs pitching prospects sidelined
Taillon seeking second opinion for elbow pain; Glasnow dealing with back tightness
SARASOTA, Fla. -- Jameson Taillon and Tyler Glasnow, the Pirates' top two pitching prospects, are dealing with injuries serious enough to delay the starts of their seasons, and in Taillon's case, his expected arrival to the Major Leagues.
Taillon is coping with discomfort in his pitching elbow that has been termed "minor" but called for an MRI. He is in the process of getting a second opinion -- general manager Neal Huntington was unsure whether that involved Dr. James Andrews -- and in the meantime, the organization has pulled the plug on him for a couple of weeks.
"They're sending him to get a second opinion, and we're kinda in a holding pattern until then. Before I comment further, I'd really like to have that second opinion, I'd be more comfortable talking about it then," said Taillon's buddy Gerrit Cole after the Pirates' 7-7 tie with the Orioles on Sunday.
Glasnow has been dealing with a tight lower back and has yet to see any game action at the Pirate City Minor League camp. He has begun throwing on the side and will gradually build up his arm, but is certain to begin the season on the disabled list.
The two right-handers headline Pittsburgh's farm system, which ranks as one of the Majors' deepest and most talented. MLB.com Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects rates Taillon at No. 16 and Glasnow at No. 27.
Glasnow, a 20-year-old power pitcher who spent last season in Class A ball, is a longer-range prospect and also has a lesser injury.
But Taillon's situation could possibly impact the '14 Bucs, who had regarded him as a potential midseason reinforcement, much like Cole was last summer.
"He reported the discomfort in the elbow a few days ago," Huntington said, "and, like we do with every pitcher, wanted to make sure of what's going on in there. He had the MRI, and the ligament is intact."
"The ligament" is the object of Tommy John surgery, increasingly common, yet still feared because of the year-long recovery.
Apparently, Taillon had been aware of the discomfort for some time, but had been able to work his way through it. He took his latest turn in a Minor League game at Pirate City on Wednesday and by all accounts looked strong.
"His last outing, he threw the ball very well," Huntington said.
Taillon reported the situation to team personnel when the pain was bad and felt alien enough to interrupt his sleep following that four-inning start on Wednesday.
"My velocity was up and everything was really sharp. I was really pleased with it," Taillon detailed to PiratesProspects.com. "I woke up in the middle of the night and had pain that I had never felt before."
"We will have a much clearer picture to report publicly once he gets that second opinion," Huntington said. "We'll see how quickly it can work itself out, but we feel positive he'll just miss a limited amount of time until he can get that discomfort out of there."
Taillon's best-case scenario obviously is being cleared to resume throwing after that re-evaluation in two weeks. That would enable him to be game-ready for Indianapolis in early May. He currently has 37 Triple-A innings under his belt. Cole got his mid-June promotion with 74 Triple-A innings on his resume.
"We all have something. We've all had to grind through things bothering us," Cole said. "He's in good spirits and working out. He did his leg workouts today, like usual."
The worst-case scenario is just as obvious.
Huntington was addressing two other Pirates prospects who have undergone the Tommy John procedure -- Kyle McPherson last year and Clay Holmes last week -- when he noted "it's not a rarity."
But it was obvious the transplant surgery is something baseball executives have had to accept and deal with.
"It's not unusual anymore," Huntington said. "Not when 25 percent of big leaguers [pitchers] on Opening Day rosters last year had Tommy John surgery. Sometimes guys come back better than ever; it gives them a chance to re-condition their body."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.