Jameson Taillon Injury: What's Next for Pittsburgh Pirates?

Ryan GauleCorrespondent IApril 8, 2014

Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jameson Taillon waits his turn to throw against hitters during the team's baseball spring training workout in Bradenton, Fla., Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)
Gene J. Puskar

The Pittsburgh Pirates were dealt a blow Monday when Tom Singer of MLB.com reported that pitching prospect Jameson Taillon opted to have Tommy John surgery on his injured throwing arm.

A 22-year-old righty, Taillon was ranked as the second-best prospect in the Pirates' organization overall according to Baseball America

The Pirates have three reliable starters right now in Francisco Liriano, Gerrit Cole and Charlie Morton, but it was likely that Taillon would earn the chance to start a few games toward the middle or end of the season in that No. 4 or 5 spot. 

Tom Singer caught up with general manager Neal Huntington, and his reaction was as follows: "We're looking at this as a long-term recovery process, for Jameson to be successful and to have the great Major League career we expect him to have."

For now, however, the organization will have to weigh its options going forward in 2014. 

Once starting pitcher Jeff Locke returns from injury, the Pirates will have an established fourth starting pitcher their rotation. 

Currently, the No. 4 starter is Wandy Rodriguez, who looks to be healthy right now following an injury-plagued 2013 season in which he pitched in only 12 games for Pittsburgh. Still, it is uncertain whether Rodriguez will remain healthy or be nearly as effective as he was earlier in his career.

Their fifth pitcher is Edinson Volquez, who was also injured for a majority of the 2013 season, pitching in only six games for the Los Angeles Dodgers.  So, the Pirates are expected to call on a few prospects to make spot starts this season.   

Now that the option of eventually calling up Taillon this season is off the table, expect the Pirates to almost certainly give reliever Stolmy Pimentel a shot at some point this season as a starter. 

The 24-year-old from the Dominican Republic was lights-out in his one appearance so far this season, striking out four batters in 4.0 scoreless innings.  Pimentel is built to be a starting pitcher in the major leagues, and it is only a matter of time before he is given the opportunity to start for the Pirates in 2014. 

Another viable option for the Pirates this season is reliever Jeanmar Gomez, who came up as a starter with the Cleveland Indians, earning the victory in his major league debut in 2010 when he threw 7.0 scoreless innings against the Detroit Tigers

Gomez started eight games for the Pirates in 2013, allowing 12 runs in 34.1 innings pitched.  He went 1-0 in those eight starts, but the Pirates went 8-0 in them.  He demonstrated the ability to keep his team in games, which is what the Pirates need at the bottom of their rotation if Rodriguez or Volquez are either ineffective or injured again. 

If they need another spot starter to choose from, the Pirates have Brandon Cumpton in their farm system.  Cumpton pitched in six games and started five of them for the Pirates last season, going 2-1 overall with a 2.05 ERA. 

According to Baseball America, Cumpton was the No. 11 prospect in the Pirates' organization after the 2013 season.  He has proven that he can be a major league starter, and he gives the Pirates added depth if they need to dig deeper into the organization to find a spot starter in 2014. 

While the Taillon injury negatively affects the Pirates, the damage will be minimal if the Pirates get great efforts from their young and talented pitchers. 

Taillon has his whole career ahead of him, so he would be wise in being careful not to rush a comeback to prevent a greater injury. 

If things do not go as planned with the spot starters by the time the All-Star break comes, the Pirates may want to consider looking outside of the organization and finding a pitcher they can trade for. 

If that is the case, there may be members of the organization that regret letting reliable starter (health-wise) A.J. Burnett walk in free agency after the 2013 season. 

Nevertheless, it is still early in the season, and right now the Pirates are playing smart, sound baseball that they hope to carry on with throughout the season. 

*Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference