Jameson Taillon spent countless hours over the past two years thinking about this moment.
On Wednesday, he finally got to live it.
Taillon was back on a major league mound for the first time in 23 months, making his first start since before his second Tommy John surgery in 2019.
“This is going to sound cheesy but I’ll never take a day in a big-league uniform for granted,” Taillon said after the Yankees’ 4-3 loss to the Orioles. “That’s for sure. I was super happy to be out there. It felt really good to compete.”
It was Taillon’s Yankees debut after the January trade that brought him to The Bronx from the Pirates. The right-hander lasted just 4 ²/₃ innings, but he was effective. He allowed three hits, two earned runs with seven strikeouts, two solo home runs and no walks. Taillon’s fastball was consistently 93-95 miles per hour and he mixed in a curve and a slider.
“I thought he threw the ball really well,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. “Obviously, this day was a long time coming for him. I’m sure there were all kinds of emotions being out on that mound again.”
Taillon did not show those emotions. He looked comfortable immediately, striking out Cedric Mullins on a 95 mile-per-hour fastball to start the game and retiring the first nine batters he faced. The Orioles broke through in the fourth inning with a leadoff home run from Mullins and another home run by Anthony Santander that gave Baltimore a 2-1 lead.
“I thought I made a lot of really good pitches, competed well,” Taillon said. “Really, two bad pitches sum it up. Overall, I thought I made more really good pitches than bad. It’s something to build off of and hopefully get that pitch count going in the right direction after this.”
The 29-year-old struck out the next two batters to get out of the inning and Boone left him in for the fifth. Boone yanked him after he had faced three batters in the fifth, striking out two. Taillon threw 74 pitches in his first outing since May 1, 2019. Boone said he was not going to let Taillon go past 75 pitches in his first time out. Boone called it a “solid performance” and a “strong step” for Taillon.
The Yankees have had several pitchers — Corey Kluber, Domingo German and Taillon — making their return after long absences in the first week. The Yankees took advantage of early off-days to keep Gerrit Cole on schedule, which pushed back Taillon’s first start to Wednesday.
For Taillon, it was worth the wait.