Taillon soaks up 'real' energy in Montreal

Bucs starter with Canadian citizenship works 3 innings in final tuneup

Taillon soaks up 'real' energy in Montreal

MONTREAL -- With two outs and two runners on base in his first inning on the mound Friday night, Jameson Taillon realized something.

"This is different than Spring Training," he said. "This felt real."

Taillon pitched three innings in the Pirates' 1-1 tie with the Blue Jays at Olympic Stadium, his final tuneup for the regular season. He got a feel for the Montreal ballpark's atmosphere -- and most of the 43,180 fans in attendance -- at the end of the first inning.

Taillon was facing Russell Martin, the former Pirates catcher who grew up in Montreal and now plays for the Jays, when the crowd roared to life. Fans offered Martin a standing ovation, which Francisco Cervelli encouraged and extended by stepping in front of the plate. When Martin stepped in, Taillon got him to ground out back to the mound.

The game won't count in the standings, but Taillon compared that moment to David Freese's never-ending ovations last season in St. Louis and the extended applause Matt Holliday received in his final game with the Cardinals.

"Russell Martin's ovation is one of the coolest things I've seen on a baseball field," Taillon said.

Martin receives standing ovation

Taillon is not as much of a local favorite as Martin, but he is tied to Canada. The 25-year-old was raised in Texas, where his father doesn't pronounce their last name like the fans did here. But Taillon is a dual citizen of the United States and Canada. His mother is from Toronto, and his father is from Cornwall, Ontario. Taillon pitched for Canada in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

About 20 members of Taillon's extended family attended Friday night's game at the Expos' former home, he said. Taillon joked that his family wasn't into baseball until he came along, but they were excited to watch him pitch in person.

"I thought he was really strong," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Who knows how much the combination of coming back to a place like this and pitching can add to adrenaline. … I think he's in a really good place to start the season."

Taillon's next start in five days will be more real than even Friday night felt. He will toe the rubber at Fenway Park, staring down a loaded Red Sox lineup and Chris Sale on the mound. In that regard, he said, Friday's game was a fitting dress rehearsal.

As Taillon and Cervelli talked before the game, they noted the benefits of facing another American League East team with a similar approach and lineup construction. Taillon wasn't his typically efficient self, needing 59 pitches to get through three innings, but he leaned on his curveball and mitigated the damage to one run on three hits and a walk while striking out two.

"Just a quick little tuneup, go into the season feeling good and encouraged," he said. "I'm glad I threw a decent amount of pitches so I don't go in feeling too, too strong and out of control with my body."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.