NEW YORK — When Jameson Taillon took the field at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night, the right-hander looked around the ballpark, taking it all in.
Taillon wasn't just making his Yankees debut. He was pitching in a big-league game for the first time since May 1, 2019.
His first outing since his second Tommy John surgery had its highs and lows, but Taillon showed flashes of the dominant stuff that he showcased with the Pirates earlier in his career. It's why New York shipped four prospects to Pittsburgh this offseason to acquire him.
The 29-year-old allowed just two runs on three hits over 4 2/3 innings of work while striking out seven. The Yankees came back in the eighth inning to tie the game, but fell in 11 innings to the Orioles, 4–3.
"I'll never take a day in a big-league uniform for granted, that's for sure," Taillon said after the game. "I was super happy to be out there, it felt really good to compete, good to get the first one out of the way. Really excited to be a part of this team."
Taillon's first trip through Baltimore's order was perfect, starting with a strikeout of center fielder Cedric Mullins. But he ran into trouble in the fourth, when Mullins pounced on a hanging changeup and sent a solo shot deep into the right-field bleachers.
Two batters later, Taillon left a fastball over the plate and right fielder Anthony Santander deposited it into the Yankees bullpen.
He may have given up the two solo shots, but after each long ball, the right-hander immediately bounced back with a strikeout. Finding his groove, in just his first start of the year, the final six outs that Taillon recorded against Baltimore came via the strikeout.
Taillon called the Mullins home run "inexcusable," missing badly on his fourth pitch, but overall he was pleased with his performance. He threw 74 pitches, excelling with his new mechanics while catching hitters off balance with his revamped pitch mix.
"I thought the ball was coming out really well," Taillon said. "Thought the mechanics held up in the most competitive environment that I've been in yet, so definitely really encouraged."
Yankees manager Aaron Boone revealed after the game that he wasn't going to let Taillon go over 75 pitches in his first outing of the year. The skipper was pleased overall with Taillon's ability to embrace the emotions of his return to the mound while still nearly getting through five frames.
"Obviously this day was a long day coming for him, so I'm sure there were all kinds of emotions being out on that mound again and just happy for him, another step and another really solid performance for us," Boone said.
Remember, Taillon didn't throw a single pitch in 2020, working back from his second procedure to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Topping out at 95 mph on Wednesday night, Taillon's fastball averaged 93.3 mph on 31 heaters. That's just over a tick below his average of 94.7 in 2019 before the surgery.
The right-hander was bombarded with high fives as he came into the dugout after Boone called to the bullpen. Sure, it's a feel-good story, watching Taillon get back on the bump after 707 days away from toeing a big-league rubber, but this team also understands how much of a weapon the starter can be in a Yankees uniform.
"He's going to be good for us," catcher Gary Sánchez said through the Yankees' interpreter. "He looks sharp and there's no doubt in my mind he's going to help us a lot this year."
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