Jameson Taillon’s rocky start to Cubs tenure hits low point vs. Phillies

Taillon had his worst start of the year in the Cubs’ 12-3 loss Saturday in Philadelphia.

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Cubs right-hander Jameson Taillon was charged with six earned runs in 2 1⁄3 innings in a loss to the Phillies on Saturday.

Cubs right-hander Jameson Taillon was charged with six earned runs in 2 1⁄3 innings in a loss to the Phillies on Saturday.

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PHILADELPHIA — Cubs right-hander Jameson Taillon put himself in a difficult spot.

He loaded the bases for ex-Cub Kyle Schwarber in the first inning. Schwarber hadn’t been hitting well to start the season, but he’s always a power threat.

Sure enough, he jumped all over a hanging curveball and sent it to Citizens Bank Park’s second deck for a grand slam.

“It’s crappy,” Taillon said after the Cubs’ 12-3 loss Saturday to the Phillies. “Especially being on a new team and in a new place, [I] want to prove I deserve to be here and I’m a good player. And, so far, I haven’t had the opportunity to show that.”

He was charged with six earned runs in 2⅓ innings, his worst start of the year.

The Cubs see potential for growth in Taillon, whom they signed to a four-year, $65 million contract this winter. He entered the game with a career 3.92 ERA, even after battling cancer and Tommy John surgery in past seasons. But he has been inconsistent with the Cubs.

“We’re going to try to help support when a guy’s struggling,” manager David Ross said. “And he’s going through a tough time right now. . . . He’ll put the work in, we’ll put the work in to try to be better.”

Early in the season, Taillon (0-3) was hit with bad luck — bloopers falling — leaving little room for error. And just when he’d put together a scoreless outing against the Dodgers, he landed on the 15-day injured list with a strained left groin. He’d never felt anything like it, he said in a conversation with the Sun-Times while on the injured list.

Even the injury, which he suffered in Oakland last month, bore the mark of bad luck. Taillon was scheduled to start against the Dodgers the next day at Wrigley Field. In the weight room five minutes before stretch, he didn’t feel quite as loose as he wanted to be.

“I’m going to skip stretch, I’m gonna make sure I do all my routine, hit everything perfectly, make sure I’m really ready to go when I go outside,” Taillon said of his thought process. “And it still happened.”

Playing catch on flat ground at 90 feet, he shuffled through a throw and felt a cramp in his groin.

He spent two weeks on the IL and probably would have built up more, but the Cubs’ starting depth was waning. So he came back on a pitch limit and Javier Assad piggybacking his starts.

It was a bumpy transition back, but after allowing four runs in the first inning against the Astros last week, Taillon seemed to settle into a rhythm. As he held Houston scoreless for the next 3⅔ innings, he looked more like the pitcher the Cubs expected when they pursued him in free agency.

Taillon’s start against the Phillies was a step back in proving his reliability on a new staff. And bad luck wasn’t a factor.

The first three hits Taillon allowed had exit velocities of 105.6, 95.2 and 107 mph. The third was Schwarber’s grand slam.

On a 2-2 count, Taillon was trying to go to the same spot he hit with a curveball two pitches earlier, low and on the inner third of the plate.

“I thought, ‘You lay off it once, maybe you won’t lay off it twice,’ ” he said. “Maybe tried to make it too sharp or something and got sped up and hung it.”

Taillon never found his footing after that. Alec Bohm smoked a chopper at third baseman Patrick Wisdom, who misfielded it for an error. With two outs, Taillon surrendered a two-run homer to Kody Clemens. The Phillies batted through the order in the first, and Taillon needed 36 pitches to get out of the inning.

After a scoreless second, Taillon loaded the bases in the third on two walks and a single. He handed the ball over with one out.

“You watch a guy across the way like [Phillies starter] Aaron Nola today, it seemed like he was just living on the edges every single pitch,” Taillon said. “That’s a good place to start, just executing pitches, focusing on command over stuff.”

Taillon has worked through similar issues before in his career. In the same ballpark two years ago with the Yankees, he allowed four runs in a third of an inning to the Phillies.

“Went back to the drawing board, looked at a lot of things, did a deep dive, then ended up turning my season around,” Taillon said. “So you can definitely find some good from the bad and pick yourself up and hopefully make yourself stronger.”

He had a 5.09 ERA heading into that 2021 start in Philadelphia. He posted a 3.46 ERA the rest of the way.

“It’s not any kind of panic button or anything like that,” catcher Yan Gomes said, “because we know the track record, we know that he’s willing to put in the work and willing to make some adjustments if we need to.”

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