The Pittsburgh Pirates’ worst fears about Jameson Taillon have been realized, as general manager Neal Huntington announced Sunday that their top pitching prospect will undergo season-ending surgery to his right elbow.
Taillon, 22, was shut down two weeks ago due to discomfort in that pitching elbow, with the hope that rehabilitation could solve the issue. Instead, the No. 2 overall pick in 2010 will be out a year to 18 months following imminent Tommy John surgery.
Huntington described Taillon’s ulnar collateral ligament as “compromised, not ruptured.” Taillon was given the option of trying rest and rehab, but he elected to undergo a procedure that has become quite common among professional pitchers in the past three decades.
The Pirates are one of the most cautious organizations in MLB when it comes to protecting young arms, and Huntington said their rate of Tommy John surgeries during his tenure is among the lowest in the league. However, Taillon shows that conservatism can’t prevent significant injury in every case.
Taillon responded to well-wishers via his Twitter feed:
Thank you all for the well wishes and prayers. I’m really blessed to have so many people that genuinely care about me! Going to be stronger
— Jameson Taillon (@JTaillon19) April 6, 2014
While surgery is probably best for Taillon’s long-term health, it scuttles the Pirates’ plan to add him to their starting rotation at some point this season. Taillon, with his big frame and powerful repertoire, is considered one of the best prospects in baseball.
For now, Pittsburgh will lean heavily upon their incumbent starters to get the job done. Francisco Liriano, Charlie Morton, Gerrit Cole and Wandy Rodriguez have all begun their seasons in effective fashion, with newcomer Edinson Volquez making his Pirates debut Sunday afternoon against St. Louis at PNC Park.
Liriano and Morton have had the Tommy John procedure, with both returning to the major leagues at or above their pre-surgery performance levels.