There were two Taillons in the ballpark Thursday night, and for Clearwater, one was more than enough to handle.
Jameson Taillon gave his father plenty to cheer about in his seventh start, pitching six dominant innings as Class A Advanced Bradenton backed its starter at the plate in a 16-3 rout of Clearwater at McKechnie Field.
"It was his first time seeing me pitch in a while," Taillon said of his dad, Michael, who was in Bradenton for the week. "So he got to see me, which is cool, and I'm glad he got to see me on a good night."
Of course, the way Taillon is pitching, every night has been a good one. The Pittsburgh's No. 1 prospect, sporting a throwback Pirates-inspired Marauders cap, struck out three, walked one and held the Phillies affiliate to five hits over six shutout frames for his second win. Pittsburgh's first-round pick from 2010 has held opponents to six runs and has 36 strikeouts in 36 2/3 innings this year.
Dan Grovatt, Wes Freeman and Stefan Welch all went deep Thursday, and when Taillon finally took a seat after six innings, the Marauders owned a 14-0 lead.
"It's nice, but it's also kind of one of those things where you gotta keep throwing, you gotta keep doing your thing," Taillon said. "The only things I did differently pitching with a lead, I just went out and attacked with my fastball, used my chanegup and curve a little. But mostly commanding the fastball, there was no need to go to anything else. I stuck with that and it worked."
Taillon's aforementioned fastball is of the 95- to 97-mph variety, and it's occasionally touched 99. Combine that with a 12-to-6 curve and Taillon's latest weapon, a changeup, and you've got a lot of frustrated Florida State League batters.
The changeup specifically has been a new one for the Woodlands, Texas native, who was essentially dared to work it into his arsenal this winter.
"I took everyone's word on it -- the change is a third pitch -- but my pitching coach in Spring Training challenged me to start throwing it," Taillon said. "The best way to gain confidence it to throw it, and that's what I've been doing. I definitely see it as an out pitch."
Taillon said he threw 68 pitches Thursday as opposed to Clearwater starter Brody Colvin, who hurled 104 and was tagged with 12 earned runs over 5 1/3 innings.
"I'm still throwing a lot of changeups actually, and I can count about six or seven swing-throughs on that tonight, got a couple ground balls, a ground-ball double play," Taillon said. "So I'm getting a lot of outs out of it and that's giving me confidence."
Clearwater stranded a runner in the first when Taillon struck out Edgar Duran and Brandon Tripp around a one-out walk to Carlos Alonso. He whiffed Anthony Hewitt before fielding a comebacker from Chris Duffy to end the second, erased Miguel Alvarez's leadoff single in the third with an inning-ending double play and worked a 1-2-3 fourth.
Taillon escaped a jam in the fifth when Clearwater loaded the bases on three singles, but with two outs, Duran's single to the left side actually hit the baserunner from second, Anthony Hewitt, who was called out to end the inning. An inning later, Taillon fielded a comebacker and started a double play following a single to wrap up the sixth.
"It's nice to be able to go deeper into the game. That's one of my main goals, to be the guy they hand the ball to and eat innings," said the 6-foot-6 right-hander. "To be the guy they hand the ball to in big games. I'm not too sure what [Pittsburgh's] plans are, but it's nice to go six innings, and I think I had about 68 pitches through six.
"I feel like I could have kept going and gone back out there, but I think later down the road, [the pitch counts] might open up a bit."
As for the Marauders lineup, the barrage of runs began in the sixth when two walks and a wild pitch led to three consecutive singles, a passed ball, another single and a three-run homer by Grovatt to cap a seven-run outburst.
"It was fun, our offense has been swinging a hot stick lately. We've been killing the ball," said Taillon. "The main thing is we're seeing pitches, working the count and it's a lot fun to be a part of."
And somewhere in the stands, the elder Taillon had a smile on his face too.
"He saw me throw once or twice last year in the Minors, but this was definitely a good start," Taillon said. "It's always fun to have him in the stands."