NEW YORK — Even though Jameson Taillon (New York Yankees) and Chad Kuhl (Colorado Rockies) now play for different teams, the duo keeps close tabs on each other thanks to their shared time and experiences coming up in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.
When asked about Colorado Rockies pitcher Chad Kuhl, Jameson Taillon’s face immediately lit up.
“One of my closest friends in the big leagues,” Taillon said from inside the Yankees clubhouse.
And it’s easy to see why the friendship is there. Taillon, the second overall pick in the 2010 MLB draft, made his MLB debut with the Pirates on June 8, 2016. Kuhl, a ninth-round pick in the 2013 MLB draft, had his debut in Pittsburgh just 18 days later. From those debuts through the 2018 season, the duo were key pieces of the Pirates rotation.
“I know the Pirates organization regarding him extremely highly,” Taillon said. “He came out of the gates pretty hot (posting a 3.50 ERA through his first seven starts with five strikeouts in four of those outings). I think it just hit a point in Pittsburgh where he needed a change of scenery.”
And that change of scenery has brought Kuhl to the Colorado Rockies, where he has started his Colorado career by becoming the first starter in Rockies history to begin his time with the franchise and surrender just two or fewer runs through his first three starts of the season.
“I’m not shocked to see him doing what he’s doing,” Taillon said.
Watching from afar as Kuhl builds new relationships with a rotation that has been together for some time in Kyle Freeland, Germán Márquez, and Antonio Senzatela also reminds Taillon of what he saw from the core group in Pittsburgh during the duo’s formative years.
“As a starter, we throw every fifth day, and there’s only five of us on a team. That means there are 150 of us around MLB with 30 teams and five guys, so there’s not a ton of us in the world,” Taillon explained. “All we have is each other and we all speak the same language. We all know what we’re going through. You know, it could be something as simple as, say Luis (Severino) is going out and facing the (Baltimore) Orioles tonight. I’m going against them in two days, so maybe tomorrow I’ll sit by him on the bench and talk to him about what he saw. And then some days, we just need to take our mind off the game and kind of shoot the crap together on the bench and have some laughs.
“With Pittsburgh, we were young and we were trying to figure out how to be Major League Baseball players, so that was important for us to have each other. We would ask each other questions. ‘Hey, how do we talk to our pitching coaches during our bullpens?’ ‘How do we do our scouting reports?’ ‘What are we looking for before a game?’ ‘What kind of treatment do we need?’ ‘Are you doing massages?’ ‘What’s your lifting program?’ We can learn a lot from each other.”
Now a new member of the Rockies rotation, Kuhl is learning from a new group of pitchers in a new environment, especially after signing on with the team after spring training was already underway.
“It was really quick,” Kuhl said. “It was all about getting prepared and meeting a lot of new faces. I’m just trying to fit in with the starters and with everyone on the team, but there are a lot of good people in this building, so that has made it a lot easier.”
Manager Bud Black has liked what he has seen so far from Kuhl.
No matter the uniform he puts on, Taillon believes Kuhl has every skill needed to succeed, and he is cheering him on from his new home with the Yankees.
“He is one of those guys who has the plus stuff, work ethic, and the makeup to be a successful starter anywhere,” Taillon said.