With three weeks left until Opening Day, the Pittsburgh Pirates are starting to pare down the number of players at their major-league training camp.
Their first cuts of the spring happened early Monday, as top pitching prospect Jameson Taillon was reassigned to minor-league camp along with Alen Hanson, Joely Rodriguez, Casey Sadler, Matt Hague and Carlos Paulino.
While the moves were expected for the other five, it’s notable that the 22-year-old Taillon is part of the first group sent out of McKechnie Field. The second-overall pick from the 2010 MLB Draft is expected to make his Pirates debut at some point this season, so it would stand to reason that management would want to keep him around the big-league team as long as possible.
Or maybe Bucs brass feels that Taillon needs more refinement if he’s to stay on track for a Pittsburgh promotion. If that’s the case, the decision to get him more low-pressure reps in minor-league exhibitions makes sense.
Taillon wasn’t incredibly sharp in Grapefruit League action this spring. Although he attracted raves from scouts comparing him favorably to current Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole, Taillon allowed three runs (one earned) and four hits in 2 2/3 innings. That’s a minuscule sample, but maybe it factored into his reassignment in a small way.
Most likely, the Pirates want to see more out of pitchers like Stolmy Pimentel, Jay Jackson and Edinson Volquez, and the opportunities for consequence-free baseball are dwindling. That makes Taillon a victim of the oft-cited “numbers game,” at least for the time being.
Besides Taillon, who is the Pirates’ best or second-best minor-league talent depending on who’s evaluating, middle infielder Hanson is the only other cut with significant MLB potential. The 21-year-old has already been assigned to the Double-A Altoona roster, along with lefty pitcher Rodriguez.
Jackson gets his second start of the spring at 1 p.m. Monday when the Pirates host Baltimore in Bradenton. Subpar pitching from Volquez and Charlie Morton doomed Pittsburgh to a pair of split-squad losses Sunday, dropping the Bucs’ spring record to 7-4.