Just when things were starting to settle into place for the Pittsburgh Pirates – Tony Sanchez will start the season with the big-league club, while the demotion of Chris McGuiness indicates Andrew Lambo will also come north for Opening Day – a couple injuries have altered the proceedings.
Both of those ailments involve starting pitchers, although one is more concerning than the other. The less alarming of the two, Francisco Liriano‘s sore groin, shouldn’t keep the left-hander from making his season-opening start next Monday, although the Pirates are being understandably cautious.
Even if Liriano has to sit out Opening Day, his lower-body tightness doesn’t figure to be a lingering issue if the Bucs ensure he takes it easy. On the other hand, the elbow soreness being suffered by the organization’s top pitching prospect has a more ominous feel.
Jameson Taillon, one of the most promising young arms in baseball, has been shut down temporarily after feeling some discomfort in his right arm. The 22-year-old will be out of action for at least a couple of weeks as he seeks a second opinion on the issue. As a result, Taillon is unlikely to make his first scheduled start with Triple-A Indianapolis next month.
Just as importantly, the injury – considered to be minor – will probably bump back Taillon’s projected midseason arrival in Pittsburgh. With uncertain entities like Edinson Volquez and Jeff Locke in the mix for rotation spots, the Pirates may need a Taillon injection more than they’d like to admit.
Of course, there’s no guarantee Taillon will be able to step onto an MLB mound and excel like Gerrit Cole did last June, but there’s a good chance the big Texan will be able to handle the promotion expertly.
Before that happens, however, the Pirates have to make sure Taillon is physically sound. The organization made a similarly careful move last week when it put fellow elite pitching prospect Tyler Glasnow on the shelf with lower-back tightness.
Young talent is important to any MLB franchise, but especially a low-revenue club like the Pirates. That amps up the pressure on management to ensure the health of their most valuable standouts.