Jameson Taillon first went through discomfort before finding out he had testicular cancer, then surgery to address the problem.
This was 2017. And what Gerrit Cole found amazing was that each time he reached out to find out how one of his best friends was doing or to offer comfort, somehow Taillon would shift the conversation to Cole’s pitching. To stuff he noticed that might help his Pirates teammate and pal.
“He was giving me his perspective from the TV how I was doing,” Cole said by phone Sunday, not long after it was announced the Yankees had obtained his friend from the Pirates for four prospects. “He was offering his thoughts and being a sounding board as if he were still in the clubhouse. Obviously, I am checking in on him for cancer purposes and he is still keeping up on me to push me and make me better.”
It was part of the reason that when Aaron Boone called a few weeks back to get intelligence on Taillon as the Yankees pursued the righthander, Cole could so easily gush. After all, the Yanks had done their homework on Taillon’s pitching stuff and wanted an inside view if he had the right stuff to come to New York.
“I told them, if you are going to bet on somebody, if you are going to go to battle with someone, that Jameson is the guy you want next to you,” Cole said. “He is not fazed. He always makes people around him better. He is one of the most resilient people I have ever known.”
Taillon was taken with the second overall pick by the Pirates in 2010, Cole with the first overall pick in 2011. They became fast friends, going through similar expectations and a similar climb. Cole noticed right away the accuracy of Taillon’s fastball and curveball excellence like he had never previously seen. But it was more than that.
Taillon needed Tommy John surgery for the first time in the minors. He had a hernia. He had the testicular cancer. He needed Tommy John surgery again in 2019 and missed all of last season. Yet, with each physical setback, “He just bounces back from these better than some can even imagine,” Cole said. “He remains incredibly positive. He is fun to be around when it is not the easiest thing to do. He’s always a positive influence on the culture and other teammates. He is a real special guy.”
Taillon and Cole pitched together for below-.500 Pirate clubs in 2016-17. Now, Taillon is joining Cole in New York on a team with championship aspirations.
“He is champing at the bit to get back,” Cole said. “He will put himself in a good position [in New York] to adapt to all things because he is a pro.”