BRADENTON — Returning to the city where he spent more time than he would have liked — courtesy of a pair of rehabs following two Tommy John surgeries, five years apart — Jameson Taillon took the next step in his latest comeback.
The Yankees right-hander tossed two scoreless frames against the Pirates, his former team, Saturday at LECOM Park, working out of a jam in the second inning and striking out four in his second start of the spring.
“I didn’t have to pull up my Google Maps to get here,” Taillon, who signed with the Yankees in January, said after the 3-2, seven-inning loss.
“In that dugout, I have a lot of great friends, a lot of respect for the staff. They invested a lot in me over the years, a lot of time and energy to see my rehab through. It was a cool feeling for me to get to show them that I’m healthy and I’m back on the field. I hope it was a cool moment for them to get to watch me out there, too.”
The Yankees sure don’t mind seeing a healthy Taillon, either, with his potential resurgence a key to their rotation this season.
After a blink-and-you-missed-it spring debut, when he threw just seven pitches in a perfect inning on Monday, Taillon got more valuable work on Saturday. He threw 39 pitches (24 strikes), giving up two singles and a walk to load the bases in the second inning before striking out Kevin Kramer to end his day. He tipped his cap to the Pirates dugout on his way off the mound after facing a lineup that included five of his former teammates.
“I thought it was good work,” said Taillon, whose fastball topped out at 93.6 mph. “The first start being seven pitches, there’s some things I haven’t experienced in a couple years like in-game situations, runners on, holding runners, mixing my tempo, mixing my looks to second with a runner there. … So I was actually pretty happy to get put in that spot.”
Taillon, the Pirates’ second-overall pick in 2010, had Tommy John surgeries in 2014 and 2019 before being traded to the Yankees in January.
“Jamo took another good step,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Got backed into the corner a little bit, got his pitch count up a little bit, and I thought he responded.”
Gerrit Cole, Taillon’s former teammate in Pittsburgh, was originally scheduled to start the game in what would have been a double reunion, but rain led the Yankees to keep Cole back in Tampa, where he threw live batting practice instead.
“[Taillon is] reinvigorated and excited to get back on the mound,” Cole said. “Checking some of those [rehab] boxes with him has been cool and a really nice opportunity. I really think he’s throwing the ball well. … So enough with the sentimental, he looks really good. That’s good for us, that’s good for the Yankees.”