Taillon attacking cancer like he does pitching

Following procedure for testicular cancer, righty carrying mental toughness from mound to recovery

Taillon attacking cancer like he does pitching

PITTSBURGH -- There is a mindset that defines Jameson Taillon's mental toughness as a pitcher. When runners get on base, his focus shifts away from how they got there to what he can do to stop them from scoring. He does not dwell on the past.

Taillon has carried the same mentality into his recovery following surgery for testicular cancer. The Pirates' right-hander spoke with the media Friday for the first time since he received the diagnosis, and he reported that he has received nothing but good news since undergoing the procedure on May 8.

"That's how I view the medical stuff, too. Can't worry about how I got here or what it is," Taillon said. "I just have to worry about the plan going forward. It's definitely made me a lot more mentally tough.

"Going through trials and tribulations and tough times, with each one, I feel like I've come out stronger. I wasn't going to let this stop me or get me down in the dumps."

Taillon said he noticed an abnormality on May 2, the night before his last start for the Pirates, and alerted the club's training staff. One of the Pirates' doctors pulled Taillon into a conference room and informed him of the cancer diagnosis.

"I felt like I was in a movie or something. I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience," Taillon said. "My immediate thought was, 'What next? What can I do to get better?'"

Dr. John C. Lyne performed the surgery at Allegheny General Hospital. Since the operation, Taillon has undergone a CT scan to see if the cancer spread. He also received pathology reports on the tumor to learn more about how advanced the cancer was.

"Everything I've gotten back on those, I've taken as good news," Taillon said. "It could be a lot worse."

Taillon has some blood work remaining that will determine the path of his rehabilitation. He is playing catch and performing cardiovascular exercises at PNC Park, which he said has been a "form of therapy" following his cancer diagnosis.

The 25-year-old spoke about his cancer diagnosis as if it were just another setback on a path that's already seen too many. The No. 2 overall Draft pick in 2010, Taillon had Tommy John surgery in 2014 and a hernia operation just as he was nearing a return in '15. The maturity Taillon has displayed throughout this process is not a surprise to those who know him well.

"He made a decision a long time ago to own whatever happens to him, to not look for excuses and not pick at things, to own it and work with it and do the best he can with it," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's special."

Lyne told Taillon they caught the cancer "extremely early," perhaps the earliest case Lyne has seen. Lyne also encouraged Taillon to be an advocate for early detection, which Taillon took to heart.

"It's part of my identity now," Taillon said. "I've been given a platform."

Taillon made his Major League debut last season on June 8 and immediately provided a boost to the Pirates' rotation, going 7-6 with a 3.36 ERA in 24 career starts. Asked when he could return to the mound, Taillon said he is taking his rehabilitation day by day.

He has been encouraged by the outpouring of support from within the Pirates' organization, teammates, fans and a number of athletes who have also battled testicular cancer -- former Bucs teammate Andrew Lambo, John Kruk, Rockies pitcher Chad Bettis and Lance Armstrong.

"[I'm] feeling good now, feeling healthy. We're getting all good news back so far," Taillon said. "Going forward, it'll be something I have to monitor and stay on top of, something I'll carry with me the rest of my life."

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.