Armed with a new slider grip, Jameson Taillon looks to take his repertoire to the next level with the Chicago Cubs – Boston Herald


The idea manifested a couple of years ago.

Chicago Cubs right-hander Jameson Taillon wanted to tweak his slider to create more sweeping action, but abnormal offseasons leading into 2020 and ′21 thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and Major League Baseball’s lockout didn’t create an ideal environment during his two seasons with the New York Yankees.

This season felt like the right time for Taillon to try to add the new shape. He knew his slider had been an underperforming pitch. During the Cubs’ free-agency presentation to Taillon before he signed a four-year, $68 million contract in December, the Cubs presented the concept of trying a slider grip they identified would work well with his arm slot. The collaboration between the sides is paying off.

“So far the results have been pretty promising,” Taillon said Thursday. “I’m excited to break it out in games and see how it fares, but metrically, I’m pretty encouraged by it.”

Through the offseason, Taillon sent the Cubs video and TrackMan data of his bullpens to get feedback on this pitch. With his adjusted slider grip, Taillon’s right index and middle fingers sit on the baseball’s seams, creating a V shape, and focus on staying on top of the ball to create the sweeping movement he wants. The Cubs believe Taillon is capable of tapping in to more strikeouts against right-handed hitters, building on his track record of stellar command and low walk rate. A revamped sweeping slider could be the wipeout weapon Taillon needs.

While Taillon is able to get data feedback on the shape and movement of his new slider, there is a balancing act between dissecting that information and relying on how the ball feels coming out of his hand.

“Obviously you want the horizontal break to be significant, and that’s the reason you’re adding it,” Taillon said. “But also I can see it with my eyes … I can feel it when a good one comes out. I can feel when I’m in the right release spot. So I’m encouraged by both the eye tests and how it feels and then the numbers and metrics behind it.

“I know what I want it to look like and feel like, so now it’s chasing that and nailing it down.”

As he continues to get comfortable throwing the pitch, the next and final step of his slider’s development is figuring out how it fits in Taillon’s repertoire during a game: how to use it to his advantage and the type of hitter he should throw it against.

Ultimately Taillon wants his sweeping slider usage to take over his previous iteration of the pitch. His cutter grip is similar to his old slider grip, creating more wiggle room for how he wants his cutter to move. Working with two veteran catchers, Yan Gomes and Tucker Barnhart, also provides feedback. When a pitcher is incorporating a new pitch during a bullpen, Gomes likes to provide insight on how it looks from his angle behind the plate.

“Anytime guys are starting to work on a new pitch one day it’ll look good and the next day it’ll spin around but from the first impression it was definitely moving a lot,” Gomes told the Tribune on Thursday. “It shows his maturity, his humility that he’s willing to come in first week and already start working on things to make himself better.”

Assistant pitching coach Daniel Moskos touted Taillon’s coachability and receptiveness to information, which has led to an easy process.

“I mean, he just signed a big contract and he’s willing to take on these initiatives,” Moskos told the Tribune on Thursday. “It’s like, ‘I got this contract, is this version of me not good enough?’ But to him it’s, OK, how good can I be? It’s why we identified him as a fit. He’s still not shown the best version of himself, in my opinion, and that’s exciting.”

Taillon’s initial big test with his new slider grip will come when he throws his first live batting practice, something the Cubs are utilizing earlier than in past springs to help manage volume and tweak the preparation process; left-hander Justin Steele and right-hander Adrian Sampson threw the first camp live BPs Thursday.

Over the next six weeks, Taillon and the Cubs will evaluate his sweeping slider and whether that version will be used during the season.

“We still have his old slider in the back pocket,” Moskos said. “Like, if this doesn’t work, this doesn’t take, guess what — we’re going to go right back to that one then you’re going to be fine. You’re going to be able to do it because we know that you can. You can repeat your delivery, you can do all these things so there’s a little bit of comfort built in there.

“What we do so well as an organization is we’re not going to leave any stone unturned on what could potentially make you better. We’re willing to take that risk, but we also do a good job of explaining the why to a guy so there is buy in and it doesn’t feel like we’re just telling him what to do. We always include their input in the process.”


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