From the workhorse's mouth? Taillon says 200 IP ‘realistic'


Take it for what it’s worth barely halfway into December, but if Jameson Taillon’s optimism about starting pitcher workloads mean anything on the field in 2023, then maybe the Cubs have the beginnings of a staff with enough depth to compete in the division.

For now that’s a very sizable maybe.

But the Cubs’ newest starting pitcher sounded confident when he met the Chicago media for the first time Monday that it’s realistic to expect starters to produce more 200-inning seasons again as we get further from the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and the impact of last year’s lockout and shortened spring training.

“It’s definitely realistic,” said Taillon, whose career high was 191 in 32 starts for the Pirates in 2018 — and second-highest total was 177 1/3 in 32 starts for the Yankees this year in his secod season back from a second Tommy John surgery.

“I think innings are kind of making their way back again,” he said. “This year I think a lot more guys could have hit 200 innings, but early in the year we were all working on pitch counts and stuff because of the lockout. In the month of April I know the Yankees, most of us, were throwing 75 pitches every time. I think guys could have increased their innings by like 10 or 15.”

It’s a nice idea. And remains to be seen whether teams actually begin to stretch out their starters again as a trend after years of scaling back workloads, in part based on analytical models that suggest decreased effectiveness for most pitchers facing hitters the third time through the order.

Only eight pitchers in the majors threw 200 innings last year, only one more than 205.

Veteran Marcus Stroman, who has a pair of 200-inning seasons in his career, led the Cubs in 2022 with 138 2/3 in 25 starts after being slowed by a case of COVID and a shoulder injury.

In fact, the Cubs haven’t had a pitcher throw 200 innings since Jon Lester threw 202 during their 2016 championship season. They had two in 2015 (Lester and Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta).

“I definitely think it’s doable,” said Taillon, who signed a four-year, $68 million deal to presumably be part of team president Jed Hoyer’s Next Great Cubs Team.

If the workhorse workloads are doable for the likes of him and Stroman — never mind rehabbing veteran Kyle Hendricks — then that would seem to be a significant part of that NGCT.

Or 2022 breakout starter Justin Steele. Or promising rookie Hayden Wesneski.

“More than ever it’s important to throw innings and help the bullpen,” said Taillon, who mentioned overexposing relievers to the middle of the order and against teams they see in the division twice as often as other teams.

“And they have limits on how many pitchers you can have [on the roster].”

If nothing else, Taillon’s optimism on the subject might be a reflection on the confidence he has in his own health after a series of health issues that have curtailed stretches of the former No. 2 overall draft pick’s career — not the least of which was a 2019 Tommy John surgery that wiped out most of that season and all of the next.

“I feel great. I feel healthy,” he said. “I feel like after I had my second elbow surgery it kind of game me a new lease on baseball in my career, and I took that opportunity to find out what I was doing wrong ad find out why I was getting hurt.

“So I kind of went back to the drawing board and reimagined what my delivery would look like and what type of pitcher I wanted to be and how I could stay on the field.”

He made 61 starts the last two seasons.

“The delivery is in a pretty good spot,” he said. “Always looking to improve it.

“But, knock on wood, since that second elbow surgery I’ve never missed a bullpen, never missed a day of throwing. I don’t have to take anti-inflammatories to make it to my next start. I don’t feel like I’m in that survival mode anymore.

“I feel like I’m fully healthy and I was kind of gifted a new lease on baseball.”

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