Jameson Taillon was born in Lakeland, Fla., but was about 4 years old when his dad's job prompted a move to Texas. The family kept in touch with friends back in the Lakeland area, and last year many of them came out to see the hard-throwing Pittsburgh prospect pitch in the Class A Advanced Florida State League.
Though he enjoyed the support, the 21-year-old didn't shed any tears after a late-season promotion to Double-A Altoona.
"That's one of the reasons guys work so hard. You can see and smell what you're getting close to," the 6-foot-6 righty said of playing in the Eastern League. "You never know -- there are guys called up from Double-A."
A first-round pick by the Pirates in 2010, Taillon went 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA in three starts for the Curve at the end of last season. This year he's 2-3 with a 3.03 ERA in his first six starts while holding opponents to a .222 batting average.
Taillon throws a four-seam fastball in the mid 90s, a two-seamer, curve and change.
"The change is getting a lot better," he reports. "I'm throwing it a lot more. That's a pitch that is going to be big for me."
In 35 2/3 innings, he's given up 30 hits and 12 walks with 36 strikeouts. Taillon, from The Woodlands Prep program in Texas, has gone at least 5 2/3 innings in his last five starts.
"He finished up well last year," said Larry Broadway, Pittsburgh's director of Minor League operations. "He got a taste of the upper levels with Double-A, and he's picked up where he left off."
He allowed just two earned runs in six innings but was tagged with the 4-1 loss Thursday against Akron.
"Coming up here last year and having some success, even a small bit, gives me confidence that I can get guys out at this level," said Taillon. "My last couple of years I started strong and hit a wall. I think I've gotten better with in-game adjustments."
"As a whole, the game is a little cleaner, a little faster [at Double-A]," he added. "The hitters don't miss mistakes. That's probably No. 1."
Taillon was a roommate in Spring Training with top Pirates prospect Gerrit Cole, a fellow right-hander who's a year older than Taillon and began this season with Triple-A Indianapolis.
"We're buddies off the field," Taillon said. "Stuff can get so hectic for us. We can talk about anything."
"They both have an effect on each other," Broadway said. "Obviously Gerritt has pitched in some higher-profile events with UCLA, and he has a set of experiences that Jameson missed as a prep pick."
Back in Harrisburg: Third baseman Anthony Rendon was sent back to Harrisburg after his first 15 days in the Majors while Ryan Zimmerman was on the DL with a hamstring injury. Rendon hit .240 with a double and an RBI in 25 at-bats with the Nationals. The former Rice standout had a .962 OPS with the Senators before the call-up. He went 0-for-3 in his first game back Saturday, then went 2-for-4 in a 6-1 loss to Binghamton on Sunday.
Walk in the park: It wasn't a walk-off win, but New Hampshire literally walked to victory Friday, 8-4 over visiting Reading, which led 4-0 early on. Reading reliever Justin Friend came on in the seventh, issued an intentional walk to Clint Robinson before issuing free passes to Brad Glenn, Kevin Nolan and Adam Loewen with the bases loaded. Loewen, the former Orioles pitcher, has hit .203 with two homers in his first 59 at-bats with the Fisher Cats.
Two decades of Sea Dogs: This is the 20th year of Sea Dogs baseball in Portland. Several former players returned to Hadlock Field on April 19, including former big league catcher Charles Johnson, who hit 28 homers in 1994 in the first season for the Sea Dogs. It's been a memorable year so far as Portland won its sixth game in a row Friday with two runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat New Britain, 5-4. Portland beat New Britain, 2-1, on Saturday to improve to 18-9, again with a walk-off win in the ninth. The streak came to an end Sunday with a 6-5 loss at Hadlock Field.