Brandon Taylor Softens his Stance

As an infielder throughout his prep and college careers, Brandon Taylor never had very much use for pitching. But with throws clocked as high as 94 mph across the diamond at Class-A Peoria last season, the former third baseman is receiving an audition on the mound in the Arizona Rookie League.

After batting just .213 in 53 games with Peoria a season ago, Taylor decided to make the commitment to pitching at the initial request of Cubs Minor League Field Coordinator Dave Bialas last summer.

It's been over a year since Taylor traded in his bat for a shot on the mound, and he had hoped to be pitching somewhere other than Mesa, Ariz., by now.

But the right-hander and BYU alumnus underwent Tommy John Surgery last September after making just five appearances with the Mesa Cubs.

He has slowly rehabbed his way back into games in the Arizona Rookie League with no real setbacks, and the Cubs like what they see thus far.

"He's been throwing without any problems and is progressing in his game," Cubs Minor League Pitching Coordinator Alan Dunn said of Taylor.

"He shows an easy delivery with some good sinking-type action on his fastball. His changeup is a work in progress and has shown signs of being a usable pitch for him," said Dunn.

Because Taylor is barely 10 months removed from Tommy John, he is only now beginning to bring his breaking ball — a traditional late-breaking curve — back into the fray. Being able to do so is exciting, he says.

"I've been throwing in games for about the last eight weeks and in those eight weeks I've just been throwing fastball-change," the third baseman turned pitcher, who was the Cubs' 17th round draft pick in 2005, said.

"Hopefully a couple of games down the road, I'll be able to throw a curveball in an actual game. It's exciting, but in the past eight weeks, I've really been able to develop my changeup, which has been a blessing," Taylor said.

While Taylor had done some minimal pitching in his prep days at Timpanogos (Utah) High School, he admits it was never something he was overly fond of.

And when he was first approached about a move to pitcher, it was met with some hesitance. Taylor's passion was still the hot corner.

Faced with the decision to risk his career by sticking to his guns at third or giving something new a try, Taylor knew he had to make a choice.

What softened him?

"It was basically my age," Taylor, who turns 25 at the end of July, said of what persuaded him. "As a pitcher, it doesn't really matter how old you are. There are only so many good arms that can throw strikes."

His age may end up playing a small role in determining his true value as a prospect on down the road, but Taylor welcomes the challenge.

"As long as they give me the chance, which it looks like they're going to do, I feel my age will actually help me," he said.

A certain No. 16 also helped make Taylor's decision a bit easier.

"He's probably going to be a Cub for the next 10 years," Taylor said.

In three appearances with the Mesa club this summer, Taylor has allowed two earned runs on five hits in seven innings in relief.

He reports to reaching 87-91 mph with his fastball now, but expects his velocity to return in full form once he gets past the 18-month window after which most pitchers use to gauge their true post-surgery velocity.

"It's encouraging," he said of his current zip. "I've still got about eight more months until I'm going to hit my peak and I'm already throwing 87 to 89 (mph) and finishing off at 91. As far as my arm goes, I haven't felt better."

Ultimately, that's what the Cubs are most satisfied with for now.

"He's just started throwing his curveball on the side and is still a few days away from throwing it in games with any regularity," said Dunn.

"But the main thing is he hasn't had any major setbacks. He just needs to get more time on the mound and let his arm strength come back. Then we'll see what we have," he said.


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