Why Cubs right-hander Jameson Taillon is developing a new sweeper slider

The process began in earnest after Taillon signed with the Cubs in December.

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Jameson Taillon throws to first base during pitchers fielding drills Thursday at Cubs spring training in Mesa, Arizona.

Jameson Taillon throws to first base during pitchers fielding drills Thursday at Cubs spring training in Mesa, Arizona.

John Antonoff/For the Sun-Times

MESA, Ariz. — Right-hander Jameson Taillon has wanted to add a new slider. But the last two offseasons, first coming off Tommy John surgery rehab into a pandemic-shortened spring training, then navigating the 2022 lockout, didn’t seem like the right time.

“It was hard to truly have an offseason to really lock that down and work on it,” Taillon said Thursday. “So, this year felt like a good time to try to add it. And so far, the results have been pretty promising. I’m excited to break it out in games and see how it fares, but metrically and stuff I’m pretty encouraged by it.”

Taillon’s new sweeper slider is still a work in progress as he enters his first spring training with the Cubs. He’s keeping his old gyro slider in his back pocket for now, but his goal is to eventually have the new slider replace the old.

“I’ve had a few bullpens early on where it’s like, ‘I’ve already got this down, it feels great,’ and I’ve had a few bullpens where it’s taken a step back,” he said. “So it depends what day you catch me on right now. There’s some days where I’m like, ‘this is easy; this is going to be a weapon.’ And there’s other days where I’m like, ‘I’ve got to go fix this thing and figure it out.’ ”

The process began in earnest after Taillon signed with the Cubs in December and started build a rapport with the coaching staff. The team presented its vision for the new slider, showing Taillon the one-seam grip expected to work best for him.

A couple factors went into the Cubs recommending a sweeper slider. Taillon throws a curveball, an ability assistant pitching coach Daniel Moskos described as “usually a prerequisite” for throwing a sweeper slider.

“And his [strikeout] rate to right handed-batters is something where we saw an area to make an impact,” Moskos said in a conversation with the Sun-Times. “And we saw the sweepy slider as an option to help put those types of hitters away.”

Taillon knew he was interested even before that initial conversation.

“I know that my slider has underperformed for a little while,” he said.

It also has become an important pitch in his arsenal. According to Statcast, Taillon threw his slider, which he debuted in 2018, more than any other secondary pitch last year (18.8%).

The ghost of Taillon’s old slider will live on through his cutter, even after he retires the pitch. His old slider grip is similar to his cutter grip, so he has a feel for how to manipulate his cutter’s shape and speed.

All offseason, Taillon has been sending video and TrackMan data to the Cubs pitching coaches while working on his sweeper slider in bullpens.

“Fortunately enough, he took right to it,” Moskos said, “was able to accomplish the things we wanted to do in a very timely manner.”

Now that spring training has begun, the sweeper has already caught some of his teammates’ attention. Catcher Yan Gomes has caught one of Taillon’s bullpens since arriving in Arizona less than a week ago.

“I missed one of them,” Gomes told the Sun-Times when asked about Taillon’s slider. “It’s going to be a phenomenal tool, for sure. One of them that he threw definitely took off — not that I couldn’t catch it; it was out of my reach. But you could definitely see a lot of the movement.”

Taillon will get a chance to test out the pitch against hitters Friday, when he’s scheduled to throw live batting practice.

“That’ll be a good opportunity for it to make its debut,” Moskos said. “We’ll see what we’ve got. Because you still have to execute it, you still have to be able to take it from the lab or from the bullpen over to the game mound.”

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