Cubs righty Jameson Taillon has plan for strong second half

The four-seam and curveball should be Taillon’s “feature” offerings going forward.

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 Jameson Taillon

Cubs starting pitcher Jameson Taillon delivers in the first inning of a baseball game against the Washington Nationals Tuesday, July 18, 2023, in Chicago.

Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Right-hander Jameson Taillon would readily admit that allowing three runs in 5‰ innings against the Nationals on Tuesday “wasn’t an elite stat line.”

But after being able to self-correct his fastball command enough to deliver a decent outing after wobbling early, he felt there was a more crucial continuation of what began with a season-best eight scoreless innings at Yankee Stadium in his last start before the All-Star break.

“I felt like myself out there, and I feel like I’ve been trending in that direction for a while,” Taillon said.

Taillon’s ERA still sits at a disappointing 6.05, primarily fueled by lefties hitting for a .969 OPS against him. Those specific struggles have sparked some conversations about putting Taillon’s cutter — which hitters have a .345 batting average against this year — on the back burner.

To that end, Tuesday’s outing looked like a preview of Taillon moving forward, with four-seam fastballs and curveballs accounting for 71 of his 92 pitches. But the Cubs’ biggest free-agent pitching signing of this past winter believes re-establishing consistent riding action on his four-seamer, and the better command that comes with that consistency, has been the key to both the good and bad of his season.

“I don’t think the plan is to scrap [my cutter] by any means; I still want to be able to backdoor it for a strike and keep guys honest,” Taillon said. “I would get into bad counts because of my four-seam and misfiring at the top of the zone, super-uncompetitive. I was putting catchers in a bad spot where they have to call a cutter to get me back in the count, and at that point, the cutter was almost serving as a BP fastball.”

The four-seamer and the curveball should be Taillon’s “feature” offerings against a slate of teams that will surely stack lefty bats against him to try to capitalize on his past struggles. But the more Taillon’s four-seamer is working at the top of the strike zone, the more of his six-pitch mix — cutter included — he can comfortably use.

Now he has had consecutive outings of feeling like that’s a reality.

“There’s a human element to it, too,’’ Taillon said. ‘‘I know I can do it. I’ve done it before. This is what it looks like; this is what it feels like.”

A step closer to a healthy infield

Dansby Swanson was on the field well before batting practice Thursday, testing his bruised left heel under the watch of trainers. Manager David Ross reiterated that the All-Star shortstop could return from the injured list during the weekend series against the Cardinals.

Nick Madrigal flew out Thursday night to begin a hopefully brief rehab assignment at Triple-A Iowa. Ross said that if all goes well, Madrigal could return from his strained right hamstring by Tuesday to play against his old team, the crosstown White Sox.

“Which would be his ideal scenario,” Ross said with a smile.

Wisdom in Patrick’s usage

Ross said Patrick Wisdom will primarily be starting against left-handed starters and also right-handers with “pitch characteristics that line up with his swing path.”

According to Statcast, Wisdom is slugging .667 against sinkers this season but only .297 against four-seam fastballs. That probably provides a good hint about what sort of right-handers he’ll be called upon to face.

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