Right-hander Jameson Taillon stood to help the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2014, perhaps like Gerrit Cole did during his rookie season in 2013. It won't happen, not yet, because Taillon will undergo Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery and miss the season. The typical recovery time is 12-18 months.
Taillon's predicament continues a disturbing trend. At least 19 players in the majors and minors have had (or probably will have) Tommy John surgery in 2014. Ten major league pitchers already have gone under the knife — with Bobby Parnell of the Mets about to and Cory Gearrin of the Braves still considering his options. At least 23 players underwent Tommy John in 2013 and 46 players did in 2012.
Taillon, 22, is Pittsburgh's top pitching prospect, having been picked No. 2 overall in 2010. He has a 3.72 ERA with 356 strikeouts and 112 walks in 382 career minor-league innings, including six appearances at Class AAA in 2013. Not having him available compromises the Pirates' pitching depth, but chances are he'll be good as new at some point in 2015.
Taillon's UCL isn't completely torn, the Pirates say via MLB.com:
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington referred to the condition of the ligament as "compromised, not ruptured," and called Taillon's decision for surgical repair "the best course of action."
"It's not ruptured. Not fully torn. But it's not a completely healthy ligament," Huntington said Sunday, nearly a week after Taillon began gathering further information after an initial MRI had shown the ligament to be "intact."
As long as the Pirates don't sustain any more injuries, they should be OK to get through the season. Although come July or August, it would have been nice for manager Clint Hurdle to pull Taillon from the minors.
The big question remains: Why is this happening across the league? Is seems like too many pitchers over too-sustained of a period for it to be a statistical hiccup. The only saving grace is that Tommy John surgery will help most of these players regain their career, eventually.
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