Top pick Taillon primed for professional debut
No. 2 overall selection to pitch against No. 1 pick Harper
PITTSBURGH -- Jameson Taillon, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, is set to make his professional debut on Wednesday as a member of the Pirates' low-Class A West Virginia affiliate.
And as the schedule has it, he'll start against the only player picked ahead of him last June -- Bryce Harper.
West Virginia began a five-game home series against the Nationals' Hagerstown (Md.) affiliate on Monday. Harper had a .306 batting average in 15 games with Hagerstown heading into Monday's action.
Taillon's much-anticipated debut was delayed by the Pirates' decision to have the right-hander throw in some extended Spring Training games. The organization made that move in order to ensure that Taillon would be able to finish out the Minor League season without too strenuous of a workload.
The Pirates preferred Taillon not hit that threshold too early. Taillon lost two months on the mound last summer while he and the Pirates negotiated a $6.5 million signing bonus. That time missed kept Taillon's innings count low in 2010, and that directly affects how many innings the Pirates will allow him to pitch this season.
The 19-year-old was ranked by MLB.com as the Pirates' top prospect coming into 2011. He was listed as No. 18 on MLB.com's top 50 prospects list. Drafted out of The Woodlands High School (Texas), Taillon became the first high-school player taken by the Pirates in the first round since the club selected Andrew McCutchen with the No. 11 overall pick in 2005.
Frustrated by illness, Meek still not feeling right
PITTSBURGH -- It takes only seconds with Evan Meek to understand how fed up he is with everything he's dealt with since Opening Day.
Meek is especially tired of being sick, which he has been since catching a virus during the Pirates' season-opening series. Pittsburgh's medical staff has not been able to give Meek a specific diagnosis, and now 22 games into the season, Meek is still waiting to feel right.
"It's a bit ridiculous now," said Meek, who believes the transition from warm Florida to frigid Chicago had something to do with his illness. "It's been since the beginning of the season that I haven't been 100 percent. Why? I don't know. I've taken everything under the sun -- Z-Paks, antibiotics. I've gotten plenty of sleep. I can't explain it.
"It's throat. It's my head. It's everything. My energy level hasn't been 100 percent. I can't tell you the last time I felt 100 percent. Usually when you're sick, it's a week, or at most, two weeks."
But that's not all Meek has had to deal with. The right-hander was hampered by right calf tightness early in Spring Training, which kept him from accruing the number of innings he targeted. Right shoulder tightness -- which Meek said he is still dealing with -- cost him a week earlier in April.
It's all left Meek feeling far from regular-season form.
"Everything just still feels off," Meek said. "I feel like I'm still getting into form. I just have to continue to come in and get my treatments in and just stay with it."
Meek's rough start likely had something to do with all of those factors. He allowed seven runs in his first three outings. However, the right-hander has bounced back with six scoreless appearances since then.
Even as he pitches at less than full strength, Meek's fastball has shown more life and his command appears to be improving of late.
Now, if only he can shake that illness.
"I'm getting frustrated, because enough is enough," Meek said. "It's been enough time. I've been coming in early. The trainers have been working non-stop with me to get me to where I need to be. I've done every possible thing I could the past three weeks to get to where I need to be, and it's frustrating because I'm not there yet."
Hurdle, Leyva defend baserunning decision
PITTSBURGH -- One day after a much-debated decision to have Andrew McCutchen try to tag and score from third with two outs and the Pirates down by three in the ninth, third-base coach Nick Leyva explained his decision to send the runner.
"I thought he could make it," Leyva said. "I'm preaching as a third-base coach for them to be aggressive with me, so I'm going to be aggressive with them."
Leyva clarified that he told McCutchen to take off for home as Jayson Werth made the catch in medium-depth right field. The Pirates have preached aggressiveness since Day 1 of Spring Training, which is why Leyva and manager Clint Hurdle believed it was the right gamble to take, even though the club was down by three runs. McCutchen ended up being thrown out on a bang-bang play to end the game.
"It's very easy to say that wasn't the right situation, but I thought he could make it," Leyva said. "It's a judgment call. They don't give you a do-over. He's probably the fastest guy on the team. I thought the ball carried far enough. I know Werth's got as good an arm as anybody. I know [center fielder Rick] Ankiel has as good an arm as anybody.
"If I didn't think he could make it, I wouldn't have sent him."
As he did after Sunday's game, Hurdle defended the decision to run.
"It's about doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason," Hurdle said. "And I do believe all of those were in place. We got the wrong outcome. I trust my third-base coach implicitly. I expected him to go. I would have been more shocked if he wouldn't have gone."
Wood makes Pirates debut; Overbay rests
PITTSBURGH -- Brandon Wood made his Pirates debut and Lyle Overbay got his first day off on Monday, as manager Clint Hurdle tinkered with his lineup to load it with right-handed hitters.
Hurdle went with Wood at third base, spelling Pedro Alvarez against Nationals left-hander John Lannan. The move paid dividends -- Wood's two-run double boosted the Pirates to a 4-2 win over the Nationals.
Steve Pearce made his first start at the other corner-infield spot, where Overbay had started each of the team's first 21 games this season.
"Lyle needs a day," Hurdle said. "A rainout is not a day [off] for me. That's what we need to do to keep guys fresh."
Neil Walker and Jose Tabata have also started every game this year, and Hurdle noted that he'll find the appropriate time to give both a day to sit in the near future as well.
The decision to sit Alvarez was two-fold. Hurdle wanted to get Wood, who joined the club on Saturday, onto the field sooner rather than later, and he felt Monday's matchup could be a good one. Hurdle found it advantageous to sub Wood in for Alvarez, instead of Ronny Cedeno, because of Alvarez's struggles against left-handers.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.