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‘Fair to say’ that Chicago Cubs’ Jameson Taillon will unlikely to be ready for start of the season

‘Fair to say’ that Chicago Cubs’ Jameson Taillon will unlikely to be ready for start of the season

MESA, Ariz. — Chicago Cubs manager Craig Counsell acknowledged Tuesday the reality facing right-hander Jameson Taillon.

Taillon’s continued lower back tightness makes it “fair to say” that opening day is unlikely, Counsell said, which sets up the veteran to begin the season on the 15-day injured list. Players can be backdated three days on the IL to start the year.

“You’re kind of making a decision, like, is he going to be able to take that first turn (through the rotation) otherwise you have to go (on the IL) and the first turn is pretty unlikely at this point,” Counsell said.

The schedule is working against Taillon to properly build up with the season starting March 28. Taillon has not pitched in a Cactus League game and last faced hitters in a simulated game on the backfields March 4.

Counsell indicated nothing showed up on imaging and that Taillon’s original diagnosis remains status quo. Until he throws a bullpen, though, the Cubs don’t have a clear timetable for when Taillon might be able to join the rotation. He was scheduled for light throwing Tuesday.

“It depends on many days we have non-throwing,” Counsell said. “… The fact is, we’ve got to get into game action and every five days into game action a minimum of four times before we can even get you ready as a starter.”

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Game action could include sim games in addition to Cactus League starters, but either way, Taillon still has a long way to go to get where he needs to be.

Taillon isn’t a stranger to working through an early-season injury disruption. After making three starts at the beginning of April last year, Taillon missed three weeks because of a groin injury.

The Cubs are better prepared to cover for his absence. Left-handers Drew Smyly and Jordan Wicks and right-handers Javier Assad and Hayden Wesneski were already in the mix for the fifth rotation spot. Those who didn’t begin the season in the rotation were also expected to be in play for the bullpen. Counsell still has plenty of options to fill what is expected to be now two starter openings as the Cubs plot in the next two weeks how they prefer utilizing the pitching staff while maintaining flexibility through minor-league options.