Taillon allowed four earned runs on eight hits in four innings Saturday. He struck out three batters without issuing a walk. Poor defense contributed to his lackluster final spring tuneup, but he hasn't been particularly sharp. The righty pitched in three simulated games before making his Grapefruit League debut. Since then, Taillon has thrown in three spring contests, compiling a 4.85 ERA in 13 innings. On the positive side, he's crafted an 11:0 K:BB. He's set to start Thursday on Opening Day against the Reds in Cincinnati
Taillon scattered four hits in five scoreless innings Sunday, allowing one unearned run. He struck out six without issuing a walk. He's expected to pitch one more time before serving as Pittsburgh's Opening Day starter March 28 in Cincinnati. The 27-year-old is looking to post back-to-back healthy seasons for the first time; he registered a 3.20 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 191 innings (32 starts) last season. He also gave up three earned runs or fewer in each of his final 22 starts.
Taillon made his Grapefruit League debut Tuesday, allowing three earned runs on five hits (all doubles) and no walks in four innings. He struck out three batters. The righty has thrown three simulated games at Pirate City, refining a changeup for a possible fifth pitch. Taillon threw his changeup with only 4.6 percent of his pitches in 2018. "If it's one more pitch I can put in someone's head, that's extremely important," he said. "Might get some quick outs with it and be able to go deeper into games." He'll make two more spring starts before pitching Opening Day in Cincinnati on March 28.
The Pirates tabbed Taillon as their Opening Day starter in Cincinnati on Mar. 28, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports. "It's a big honor," Taillon said. "I get to kick off the season for the boys, set the tone." He pitched well in the Bucs' 2018 home opener, limiting the Twins to two earned runs in 5.2 innings with nine strikeouts. Taillon lost two of three starts in Cincinnati last season, allowing 10 earned runs in 17.1 innings.
Taillon is looking forward to throwing the slider he developed last summer for an entire season in 2019. "I think with that pitch," Taillon said, "I can take a big step forward." The 27-year-old added the slider to his arsenal in May, utilizing the pitch at an 18.2 percent clip while dropping his reliance on the fastball (64.1 percent to 57.5 percent). The righty compiled a 2.63 ERA in 133.1 innings from June 1 to season's end, registering 17 quality starts in 21 appearances. He also lowered his walks total by nearly one full batter (3.1 BB/9 to 2.2 BB/9) and maintained his strikeout rate (8.4 K/9 to 8.4 K/9). Perhaps most importantly, Taillon completed his first full season in the major leagues without incident. Pittsburgh has done little to improve upon a mediocre offense thus far in the offseason, but Taillon is a good bet to put up strong numbers once again in 2019.