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Pirates top pitching prospect Jameson Taillon will undergo Tommy John elbow surgery

Apr 6, 2014, 1:59 PM EDT

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As first relayed by Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pirates top pitching prospect Jameson Taillon needs Tommy John reconstructive surgery on his right elbow. The procedure will be performed this week by Dr. David Altchek at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York and will sideline the talented 22-year-old right-hander through the spring of 2015.

Taillon posted a 3.73 ERA and 143 strikeouts in 147 1/3 innings last year between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis, and he was on track to reach the major league level early this season. He was ranked the No. 19 prospect in the game this winter by Baseball Prospectus.

We’ll say it again: Pittsburgh probably should have picked up some starting pitching this offseason.

There isn’t much depth behind No. 5 starter Edinson Volquez, who had a 9.64 ERA this spring.

  1. okwhitefalcon - Apr 6, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    Another day, another TJ surgery.

    It’s not “if” pitchers are going to break anymore – it’s “when”, sheesh.

    Bright siding it, at least it’s not his shoulder.

    • jeffbbf - Apr 7, 2014 at 12:02 AM

      Better than the old days, when pitchers blew out their elbows and went back to driving cabs for a living.

  2. chill1184 - Apr 6, 2014 at 2:17 PM

    You can never have too much pitching

  3. Stiller43 - Apr 6, 2014 at 2:40 PM


  4. steelhammer92 - Apr 6, 2014 at 2:51 PM

    Has nobody else brought up the idea that all these young, phenom pitchers having TJ surgery were probably overused growing up? The “travel” teams, “premiere” teams, fall ball teams, winter league teams, etc in youth baseball all really started up in the 90s. You just didn’t have that in the 80s and prior years. Now these 90s kids are all grown up and hitting the big leagues. These young guys getting injured were the best players on their teams growing up, and were no doubt pitched until their arms fell off by youth coaches. For all the advances in sports medicine over the years, it seems like arm injuries are much more common now than they were 10+ years ago.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 6, 2014 at 2:55 PM

      Has nobody else brought up the idea that all these young, phenom pitchers having TJ surgery were probably overused growing up?

      You mean all pitchers weren’t used like this years ago? 181 Pitches over 12 innings? OldHossRadbourn silently weeps..

    • paperlions - Apr 6, 2014 at 3:08 PM

      Yep, it has been brought up. That is likely a contributing factor. The abuse by coaches of those teams, HS coaches, and college coaches…all of that combined with having young pitchers learn and throw breaking balls too early.

      Taillon was drafted straight out of HS, I have no idea if he had high pitch counts or was exposed to general abuse before he was drafted….I don’t recall anything to that effect.

    • jeffbbf - Apr 7, 2014 at 12:08 AM

      In the 80s and prior years, we played baseball every day. We threw baseballs, tennis balls, rubber balls, anything we could get our hands on. We played little league games, pick up games, wall-ball. Kids these days aren’t using their arms more than kids in the 80s and 90s. Again, the only difference is that if you blew out your elbow, you were done. They didn’t give TJS to prospects, they just let them go. The surgery is more effective, their are many more surgeons performing the procedure, and the teams are more heavily invested in their prospects. And 20-30 years ago, there wasn’t a microscope on every decent prospect in baseball. Nobody knew, nobody particularly cared.

  5. rhannah78 - Apr 6, 2014 at 2:51 PM

    Makes you wonder if all of the precautions they are taking(pitch counts, innings limits etc.) is actually contributing to the problem instead of preventing it. It’s only in recent years that this has been a major issue.

    • paperlions - Apr 6, 2014 at 3:11 PM

      Nah, it doesn’t. It is likely that the biggest problem is the abuse their arms take before they are drafted. Coaches of traveling teams, HS teams, and college teams are notorious for riding their ace to win tournaments. In general, damage to the UCL accumulates until the pitcher isn’t effective and gets an MRI…there is often a straw that breaks the camel’s back, but that doesn’t mean several bails piled on the camel years ago weren’t the primary factor.

      • rhannah78 - Apr 6, 2014 at 3:44 PM

        And they took it easy on them in previous years? Sorry I just can’t buy that argument, at least not entirely. Maybe they’re just not teaching proper mechanics anymore.

      • paperlions - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:00 PM

        What Church said. The number of innings kids pitch when they are HS age is HUGE compared to decades past. The culture of traveling teams and HS teams has completely changed.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 6, 2014 at 3:58 PM

        Kids today are playing year round in competitive leagues. When I was growing up playing little league in the 80s, kids play baseball in the spring and football in the fall. It was around that time in new england that sports, like soccer, became year round. Today kids are extremely specialized playing for travel, AAU, etc

    • indaburg - Apr 6, 2014 at 5:08 PM

      Precautions are not contributing to the problem. The problem is a combination of overuse at a young age and lack of proper biomechanics. If you combine the two, the pitcher will almost certainly require UCL surgery.

  6. mianfr - Apr 6, 2014 at 2:52 PM

    I don’t know if it’s an illusion because the names have been higher profile, but it does seem like this has been an especially devastating spring for pitchers.

  7. @thekid9ball - Apr 6, 2014 at 4:07 PM

    Reblogged this on The Fantasy Forensic.

  8. apkyletexas - Apr 6, 2014 at 5:43 PM

    Volquez and three relievers just pitched a three hit, one run beauty against the Cards, while AJ Burnett gave up eight runs in six innings for the Phillies against the Cubs. Don’t be so quick to discount the effect that Searage’s coaching and Hurdle’s defensive shifts can have to help a pitcher.

  9. randygnyc - Apr 6, 2014 at 5:48 PM

    I don’t want to out my true identity but during the 70’s through the 90’s, my father (who in his prime played 3 sports for the United States Army and eventually signed but never played for the Yankees) was the winningest high school BB coach in NJ history. I don’t know if he’s been surpassed since. When I was in HS during the early 80’s, most athletes played sports only to their seasons. I was a gifted wrestler and started to wrestle all year round. It was considered VERY UNUSUAL. I have up BB, broke my father’s heart and it essentially ended our relationship for good.

    All this to say, YES, it is more than probable that pitching all year round has added to these injuries. Pitchers who make it to the major leagues are certainly coming in with atleast TWICE the mileage on their arms as their predecessors. Also, kids are learning curveballs, sliders, sinkers, etc at an earlier age.

    One more point that perhaps a HBT can investigate and write about. I read an article that mortified me, perhaps a year or two ago. I don’t recall where I read it. But, it was about some HS kids who were prospects who were electively choosing to have TJ surgery without having injuries. The thinking was that these kids come back stronger post op and it was better to do it BEFORE entering college. Disgusting really if one considers that the parents MUST have a leading role in this for it to happen.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Apr 6, 2014 at 6:19 PM

      But, it was about some HS kids who were prospects who were electively choosing to have TJ surgery without having injuries. The thinking was that these kids come back stronger post op and it was better to do it BEFORE entering college.

      There was an article* in the NYT back in ’07 about kids asking their doctors for this. Moneyquote:

      While examining a 17-year-old pitcher for a knee injury last year in Nashville, Dr. Damon H. Petty was asked a chilling question by the teenager and his father: If reconstructive elbow surgery were performed on his healthy throwing arm, might he gain some speed on his fastball?


      The success of the surgery, and the resulting myths, are prompting young pitchers with marginal injuries, or overly optimistic assessments of their talent, to push for Tommy John surgery when they might not have in the past, doctors said.

  10. navyeoddavee9 - Apr 6, 2014 at 6:18 PM

    Volquez looked sharp today, hopefully his spring problems, are fixed

  11. Dan Camponovo - Apr 6, 2014 at 6:25 PM

    I think another contributing factor that can’t be overlooked is that these young kids these days throw the ball so.damn.hard, it’s impossible they won’t get injured. 98 is the new 94, and 102 is the new 98. Now, Taillon wasn’t someone like Yordano Ventura who can get up to 101, but he was sitting 96, and the power pitchers in the past just didn’t throw that hard. You used to be your team’s flamethrower if you threw 95, now there are (young) starters who can sit 95 and every team has a reliever that can throw 99-101.

  12. joewilliesshnoz - Apr 6, 2014 at 6:50 PM

    Shame on the Pirate top brass, via their farm team coaches, for pushing this kid too fast.

  13. penguins87and71 - Apr 6, 2014 at 9:10 PM

    No pitching depth? They have Cumpton, Locke, and Irwin in the minors, and they have Gomez and Pimentel in the bullpen that can make a few starts. They still have tons of pitching depth.

    • apkyletexas - Apr 7, 2014 at 1:15 AM

      This injury already looks like it might clear a spot for Nick Kingham at triple A, and he would then be projected to make it to Pittsburgh this summer or fall, instead of waiting until next season. Taillon has better long term potential, but Kingham may very well have better stuff right now. In which case, all the Pirates would lose would be Taillon starting his major league career one year later. The spot in the rotation would be filled with what looks like a very capable young pitcher.

  14. musketmaniac - Apr 6, 2014 at 9:31 PM

    no pitching depth, I think pen said it all

  15. Barry's Triceps - Apr 6, 2014 at 11:55 PM

    Mike trout cant pitch

    Babe Ruth > Mike trout

  16. dlhouse18 - Apr 7, 2014 at 2:06 PM

    Finally. An athlete seeing a doctor not named James Andrews.

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