The Pirates told their prized pitching prospect, "Go show us why you're Jameson Taillon, why you were second overall [pick]" when they promoted him 10 days ago to Double-A.
Taillon showed exactly that Sunday night in his Curve home debut at Peoples Natural Gas Field.
"Very polished demeanor-wise, temperament. Just fun to watch, fun to watch," Curve manager P.J. Forbes said of the 20-year-old right-hander.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Curve starter Jameson Taillon was the No. 2 overall pick by the Pirates in the 2010 MLB?Draft.
Taillon turned in one of the most impressive home debuts in franchise history. He took a perfect game into the fifth and finished with six shutout innings, allowing just one infield single while striking out seven with no walks.
Altoona's offense gave Taillon an early lead, and the Curve beat Richmond, 7-0, before 5,082 fans. Jarek Cunningham hit a big two-run triple in the second and Matt Curry smacked a two-run homer in the third to help the Curve take control.
Taillon, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 draft, has a chance to be a big league star someday, and he looked every bit the part Sunday.
"Honestly, when I came up, I really did not set expectations for myself," Taillon said of his promotion to Double-A. "I kind of just came in and had an open mind and wanted to learn and soak it up."
Even the highest of expectations may not have been good enough for Taillon's first two Curve starts, the first being Tuesday at Trenton. He's thrown 11 scoreless innings so far, giving up just five hits with 13 strikeouts and no walks.
"We told him when he came up his mindset was just to be aggressive," said Pirates minor league pitching coordinator Scott Mitchell, who also pointed out the comments about the organization stressing to Taillon to just be the pitcher they know he can be.
Taillon's perfect game ended when Richmond's Mark Minicozzi beat out an infield single to third base to start the fifth inning. Curve third baseman Jeremy Farrell made a nice diving stop to his left to snare the ball but couldn't get much on the throw to first.
Had Farrell not made the diving stop, shortstop Gustavo Nunez appeared to be in position to make a backhanded stop deep in the hole, but it's questionable whether he could have thrown out the runner.
Regardless of whether he would have had a perfect game intact, Taillon would not have been allowed to finish the game. He threw an efficient 69 pitches (48 strikes) in six innings, but he's already at 136 innings for the season, and the Pirates won't let him get too extended into games at this point.
"I really felt like I had all my pitches working for me -- fastball, four-seam, two-seam and my curveball and changeup," Taillon said.
Hunter Strickland finished off the shutout with a three-inning save, his second, while Richmond starter Chris Gloor (4-5) gave up six runs in 3 2/3 innings for the loss.
The combination of a dynamite curveball and good changeup -- which he threw about 8-10 times -- to go along with a fastball that sat primarily from 93-96 mph made Taillon nearly unhittable Sunday.
"Whenever I can put my curveball over for a strike and throw it with some good conviction, that makes my fastball play up a lot," Taillon said. "I throw hard, but if you're not getting anything else over, they can just sit on it."
He's been working on the changeup, altering his grip a bit by moving his thumb underneath a little more, Mitchell said.
"Whenever that's going over for strikes and I'm using it with good arm speed, [it's] just showing them something different, showing it to them down and giving them a different look," Taillon said of the changeup.
The Pirates also have let him start throwing a two-seam fastball (similar to a sinker) once again his past couple of starts. Of his fastballs, Taillon said it was about 80-20 four-seamers to two-seamers Sunday.
"I think it's going to be a big groundball pitch for me," he said of the two-seamer. "I can throw it whenever I'm behind in the count or whenever there's runners on [and] I need a groundball."
Taillon clearly has outstanding stuff, and Forbes said the organization is working with him on throwing his offspeed pitches early in counts. Once he figures out all the nuances, the better he'll be, and he will get a chance to do that when he starts next season with the Curve.
"He's showing three quality pitches right now, throwing them all for strikes, which means they can't just sit dead red," Forbes said. "And when you have the red that he has, that makes it hard on you as a hitter."
SUBHD: Game recap
Key player: RHP Jameson Taillon pitched six shutout innings, allowing only one hit with seven strikeouts and no walks.
Key play: 2B Jarek Cunningham hit a two-run triple in the second inning, and 1B Matt Curry hit a two-run homer in the third for a 4-0 Curve lead.
Key stat: In his first two Curve starts, Taillon has pitched 11 scoreless innings, allowing just five hits with 13 strikeouts and no walks.
SUBHD: How they scored
Bottom 2nd: Tejeda walked, Farrell singled, both scored on Cunningham triple (2-0).
Bottom 3rd: Cabrera singled, scored on Curry two-run homer (4-0).
Bottom 4th: Latimore doubled, scored on Cunningham sacrifice fly (5-0); Nunez singled, scored on Cabrera double (6-0).
Bottom 7th: Nunez doubled, scored on Santos single (7-0).