Jameson Taillon had been thinking about a new slider for a couple of years. When his new team also brought up the idea, he was more than ready to give it a shot.
So Taillon is working on a new sweeper slider in his first spring training since he finalized a four-year contract with the Chicago Cubs that is worth roughly $68 million. The 6-foot-5 right-hander is hoping his new version can essentially replace his previous slider.
“I've had a few bullpens early on where it was like I already got this down, it feels great. Then I've had a few bullpens where it's taken a step back,” Taillon said Thursday. “So it depends what day you catch me on right now.”
Taillon said he felt like his slider had underperformed for a while. But the COVID-19 pandemic and baseball's labor lockout hampered his ability to try a new version.
After his deal with Chicago became official in December, the Cubs asked if he would be interested in a new slider and suggested a grip that the team felt would work from his arm slot.
“So far, the results have been pretty promising,” Taillon said. “I'm excited to break it out in games and see it how fares. But metrically, I'm pretty encouraged by it.”
The 31-year-old Taillon is coming off a solid season with the New York Yankees, going 14-5 with a 3.91 ERA in 32 starts for the AL East champions. He matched his career best for wins and starts, and logged his most innings (177 1/3) and strikeouts (151) since 2018.
He is one of several new faces on the Cubs after the team went 74-88 last year in its second straight losing season. Shortstop Dansby Swanson, outfielder Cody Bellinger, first baseman Eric Hosmer, reliever Brad Boxberger and catcher Tucker Barnhart also signed with the team in free agency.
“Getting to know everyone has been extremely easy,” Taillon said as Ice Cube's “It Was a Good Day” played in the background at Chicago's spring training facility. "It seems like a pretty easygoing clubhouse.
“I think there's a lot of guys going through what I'm going through. We have a lot of new guys here, so we're kind of all going through it together, trying to get familiar with everything.”
Taillon is returning to the NL Central after beginning his career with Pittsburgh. He was selected by the Pirates with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 amateur draft.
After making his big league debut in 2016, he missed part of the following season because of testicular cancer. He missed the 2020 season after he had Tommy John surgery on his right elbow for a second time.
After Taillon signed with Chicago, Cubs manager David Ross said he got a text message from Yankees manager Aaron Boone praising the pitcher's character and makeup.
“I think that's all held true,” Ross said. “He's went through a lot of adversity in his life in general and you know he carries himself with the presence of a guy that's been around a really long time.”
Taillon's transition to the Cubs has been eased by his communication with pitching coach Tommy Hottovy and assistant pitching coach Daniel Moskos long before he traveled to Arizona for spring training.
Taillon said he started sending Hottovy and Moskos video of his offseason bullpen sessions and his TrackMan pitching data right after his deal was completed.
“So it feels like I've known them for a long time already, to be honest,” Taillon said. “So once we got here, it was like we just get to go to work. I don't have to go through the awkward getting-to-know-guys phase. I feel like I already know Tommy and Moskos and all those guys pretty well.”