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The low-key change behind the scenes that helped Jameson Taillon turn his season around for Cubs

11 months agoTony Andracki

Things weren’t going well for Jameson Taillon in his first few months with the Cubs.

He had signed a big deal (4 years, $68 million) in free agency over the winter and like all athletes, hoped to get off to a good start with his new franchise.

Instead, he finished June with a 6.90 ERA after coming into 2023 with a career 3.84 ERA over 6 MLB seasons.

So he set about making a change to his approach, which Boog Sciambi, Taylor McGregor and Joe Girardi detailed during Tuesday night’s broadcast.

Taillon started working with Brian Cain, a mental skills coach, and began journaling with a purpose. He would get to the ballpark and while still in street clothes, open his journal and write down intentions, affirmations and other thoughts. Then he’d change into baseball gear and use that as his mental cue to get to work executing on the thoughts he had just put down on the page.

He started these changes in earnest after the Cubs’ late-June trip to London. The results weren’t immediate (he gave up 9 runs in 10 innings over his next 2 starts) but things began to turn with his final outing before the All-Star Break.

Tuesday night marked another strong outing (7 innings, 2 runs, 3 hits, 7 strikeouts) as Taillon helped lift the Cubs to a 3-2 victory over the Mets.

He now carries a 2.17 ERA and 1.02 WHIP over his last 6 outings. In that span, the opposition is hitting just .209 off of him and his season ERA is down to 5.17.

In addition to journaling, Taillon has also been listening to “The Mental ABCs of Pitching” by Harvey Dorfman, the godfather of mental skills in baseball.

One of the big components of the change was Taillon simply acting as if things are going right even when they are not. Sort of a “fake it ’til you make it” type of attitude.

Taillon felt as if some of his early-season outings were simply the result of bad luck and actually liked his execution and process in those starts.

“Definitely the results are speaking for themselves,” Taillon said after his start on July 23 in which he limited the Cardinals to 1 run in 5.2 innings. “I was kinda searching for a while there. … I definitely feel like a closer version of myself than when I was out there just kind of faking it, trying to take the ball every fifth day to see if I could find something to gain some traction. But now I actually feel like myself.”

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