Only two players were picked before Manny Machado went to the Orioles with the third pick of the 2010 draft.
One was Bryce Harper, who was the first overall pick to the Nationals. The other was Jameson Taillon, whom the Pirates selected out of The Woodlands High School in Woodlands, Texas, at No. 2.
“I was drafted in a position where a lot was expected of me and to this point, I never felt like I got to show it in Pittsburgh,’’ Taillon said on a Zoom call Monday, a day after the Yankees acquired the right-hander from the Pirates in exchange for four prospects.
“But on the flip side, I feel like I’m at a point where I’m ready to prove that promise and contribute to a winning team.”
The Yankees are banking on it, as they added Taillon to their rotation despite a career plagued by injury — which led the 29-year-old to alter his mechanics following a second Tommy John surgery in 2019.Taillon is 29-24 with a 3.67 ERA overall, and was 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA in 2018 — his last full season in the majors.
“From the moment I was awake in that hospital bed, I felt like I was healthy,’’ Taillon said. “I felt I was fixed. From the physical side, I had a ‘coming to grips’ moment where I said, ‘You know what? My current set of mechanics and what I’m doing isn’t working. … I need to change something or else my career is gonna be over.”
So Taillon rebuilt his approach on the mound and worked with an array of people in an effort to use his legs more in order to ease the pressure on his twice surgically repaired elbow.
Along with that, Taillon wanted to make sure he maintained what he had on the mound.
That won’t be known until he returns to game action, but Taillon is encouraged by the early results.
“It might look like a short-arm action to a lot of people, but the ball is coming out extremely well,’’ Taillon said. “I’ve added some spin on my fastball and there’s more carry on it. There’s [also] more spin on my slider. Health is the main goal, but I think performance will be a really good by-product [of the changes]. … I don’t think my stuff has taken a hit at all.’’
He expects to be ready for spring training after a normal offseason in terms of pitching preparation and is especially motivated by the move to The Bronx and leaving a team in Pittsburgh that is in full teardown mode after the trades of Josh Bell and Joe Musgrove this offseason.
“Ever since I got the news I was going to New York, I haven’t felt nervous, I haven’t felt overwhelmed,” Taillon said. “I’m just extremely excited for the opportunity. I feel like I’m at a maturity level and point in my career and point in my life, that this is what I want. This is a team I want to be part of. This is a team I want to help.”
And he’s confident the change of scenery will help.
“Overnight, I went from a rebuilding organization to a team like the Yankees, where I’m stepping in and the only thing they care about is to win,’’ Taillon said. “That’s kind of lit a fire under me.’’
He’ll also be reunited with former teammate Gerrit Cole. The two came up in the Pirates’ system together and were roommates during spring training in Bradenton, Fla.
But they took vastly different paths to the Yankees, with Cole developing into a star with Pittsburgh and Houston before signing the richest deal for a pitcher in MLB history when he joined the Yankees for nine years and $324 million prior to last year.
Taillon has been sidelined not just by the pair of Tommy John procedures (the first in 2014), but also by a sports hernia in 2015 and a battle with testicular cancer in 2017.
As this history was relayed to him again Monday, Taillon said, “When you’re going through it, it doesn’t seem like as much as it sounds. Each injury is separate and you learn something new every time.”
Including a new approach to pitching.
“I hate seeing videos of how I used to throw,’’ Taillon said of his more “whip-like action” of his arm. “It disgusts me. … Injuries have sparked a lot of curiosity out of me, but hopefully it’s all in the past.”