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24 for ’24: How will Jameson Taillon fare in Year 2 with Cubs?

1 month agoTony Andracki

As the Cubs embark on a new campaign with a new manager (Craig Counsell) at the helm, we answer 24 of the most pressing questions for the 2024 season.

MESA, Ariz. — Jameson Taillon’s first year in Chicago didn’t go the way he or the Cubs drew it up.

The Cubs inked the veteran starter to a 4-year, $68 million deal ahead of the 2023 season and he carried with him a career 3.84 ERA and 1.21 WHIP.

Taillon was the 2nd overall pick of the 2010 Draft and spent several seasons ranked as one of the best prospects in the game. In the big leagues, he found consistent success with the Pirates and then with the Yankees pitching in the tough AL East.

He had dealt with adversity in the past — overcoming cancer and a pair of Tommy John surgeries — but he never endured on-field struggles like he experienced in the first half of 2023.

In his first 14 starts in a Cubs uniform, the team lost 12 of those games and Taillon had a 6.93 ERA while opposing batters hit .296/.351/.519 (.870 OPS) off him.

Right before the All-Star Break, Taillon tossed 8 shutout innings against the Yankees and used that as a springboard for a strong second half. Over his final 16 outings (including a relief appearance in the season’s final week), Taillon had a 3.38 ERA and the opposition hit only .230 with a .659 OPS off him.

“On a personal level, I was able to be accountable for the struggles, still be a good teammate, show up and treat everyone the same, still root on everyone,” Taillon said. “And I feel like when you do that, it’s easier to get out of yourself and get out of that selfish mindset and just start rooting on your teammates and then understand that it’s going to turn at some point.

“Proud of the way that I showed up every day and still took it on the chin but kept going forward and found a way to bounce back and at least have a productive second half.”

The early part of last season stands out as an aberration in Taillon’s career and his new manager believes it will be useful in 2024 and beyond.

“Nobody wants to struggle, but that is our best opportunity to learn and I think Jameson learned from it,” Craig Counsell said. “As you do your work in the winter and you finish the year strong, you take those lessons from it.

“Take those lessons into Spring Training and I think it motivates you to be sharp out of the gate.”

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Taillon said he felt “refreshed” coming into camp this spring and was anxious to get a new season started.

He has not appeared in a Cactus League game yet but is on the same progression as the rest of the Cubs starters. He will throw in a simulated game Monday and then will pitch in a regular spring game after that, likely next weekend.

Taillon has been dealing with some calf soreness this spring — something he and the Cubs are being conservative with to completely eradicate the issue before the season starts. In a simulated game, he doesn’t have to overextend himself covering first base or fielding a bunt. 

He has some changes he has made to his delivery and his stride from last season and he prefers to hammer those mechanics home in a controlled environment instead of getting caught up in the competition aspect of a Cactus League game.

A big difference for Taillon has been improved communication and comfort with Cubs pitching coaches Tommy Hottovy and Daniel Moskos. As last year went along, they got to a good spot in terms of making adjustments and also how Taillon likes information to be communicated to him.

Taillon also made some mechanical changes over the offseason.

“We’ve tried getting the arm stroke back to being a little bit more compact,” he said. “I felt like last year at times, it lengthened out. Keep the arm path athletic and connected and I feel like my best fastball shapes and deception come when I’m connected and compact. That’s a big one.

“I came into camp this year much more comfortable with my sweeper. Last year, I felt like I was just trying to figure out how to throw that for a while. This year, I feel like that’s in a really good spot.”

The 32-year-old still has another 3 years left under contract and his resume certainly indicates better years are in store. The Cubs initially felt like there was some untapped potential in Taillon’s right arm when they signed him and while that still might be possible, they’ll settle for a return to form over a full season in 2024.

And if he can get anywhere close to his breakout 2018 season (14-10, 3.20 ERA, 1.18 WHIP), the Cubs would be in a good spot with their rotation.

24 for ’24 series

What are the Cubs expecting from Kyle Hendricks in 2024 and beyond?
What role will Drew Smyly fill on the 2024 Cubs?
How will Jameson Taillon fare in Year 2 with Cubs?
How will Shota Imanaga handle the adjustment to MLB?
Who will DH for the Cubs?
Who is the Cubs’ fifth starter?
Will defense once again be the Cubs’ strength?
Can Seiya Suzuki pick up where he left off? 
What are the Cubs’ long-term plans at first base?
Have the Cubs done enough to address their left-handed hitting?
Will Justin Steele replicate his stellar 2023 season?

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