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Taillon arrives at PNC, ready to fulfill promise

Taillon arrives at PNC, ready to fulfill promise

PITTSBURGH -- He's got the signing bonus. He's seen the city and the ballpark for the first time. He's gone through the typical photo shoot and news conference.

Now, all Jameson Taillon wants to do is play.

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft arrived in Pittsburgh on Wednesday night and spent Thursday touring PNC Park and engaging the media with his humor and infectious personality. But it seemed like all Taillon really wanted to do was get past the pomp and circumstance and begin his professional career.

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And it's a career that starts with lofty expectations.

"I'm closing the chapter on my high school book and am ready to get going," Taillon said on Thursday. "Since I was 5 or 6 years old, this has been a dream to me. The signing bonus and the signing is great, but my goal is to be back here at PNC Park in a few years and help this team."

The Pirates remain cautious in setting any sort of arrival projection, though general manager Neal Huntington did concede that the right-handed Taillon has many of the physical traits that could dictate a speedy rise through the Minor League system.

Taillon's fastball velocity sits in the mid-90s and reaches higher. He also possesses two advanced breaking pitches -- a slider and curveball.

"You're going to quickly learn about a tremendous young man with a tremendous arm and tremendous upside," Huntington said.

The first step for Taillon on his way back to Pittsburgh is likely through State College, Pa. Though the decision hasn't been finalized yet, the Pirates are looking at sending the 18-year-old to observe the organization's Class A team in State College for about two weeks. There, he'll also get acquainted with Minor League pitching coordinator Jim Benedict.

Next will come the Pirates' fall instructional league. And as for 2011, Taillon will likely begin his season in the low Class A West Virginia rotation, though a start in State College is not out of the question, either.

"I feel like I'm a pretty advanced pitcher, but I know there is a ton I can learn -- pitch sequence, fastball command, all that," Taillon said. "I'm ready to get out there and work on it. Hopefully I can be back here in three to four years. That'd be great."

Taillon's personal projection might a little too conservative, though his work ethic appears to be anything but. Despite not being able to play this summer -- contract negotiations cost Taillon about two months -- Taillon hit the gym four days a week, three hours at a time.

He bulked up -- at 6-foot-6, he now weighs in at around 225 pounds -- and kept his arm strong.

"Getting picked so high, a lot of kids would have just relaxed and taken time off," he said. "A lot of people say it was a wasted summer, but I really gained a lot out of it. I'm ready for the workload. I'm a hard worker all around."

Receiving the highest signing bonus the Pirates have given out to an amateur player, Taillon said there never really was a question in his mind that he would sign with the Pirates. That meant that back on June 7, Taillon knew he was going to pass on the scholarship to Rice University, though his representatives were able to use education as a leverage during negotiations.

"When you get picked so high, there's not really much else you can do," Taillon said. "I think going back and getting a college degree is something I want to do eventually. But right now, I'm taking my dream and running with it."

Citing the path taken by his favorite pitcher, Josh Beckett, Taillon set a goal of being in the Majors by his 21st birthday. To do so, the right-hander would have to advance to Pittsburgh by the end of the 2012 season.

"I think it's pretty reasonable to expect that if I work and progress the way I think I can," he added.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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