Taillon, Bettis face off after bonding over cancer battles
DENVER — The starters for Tuesday’s game between Pittsburgh and Colorado reads like this: Jameson Taillon vs. Chad Bettis.
A more accurate description: Two starters bouncing back from testicular cancer.
“Both healthy. Both in the big leagues,” the Pirates’ Taillon said. “Life’s good.”
The Rockies’ Bettis underwent surgery in November 2016 for testicular cancer and continued cancer treatments through that spring and into last season. So when Taillon had surgery to treat testicular cancer on May 8, 2017, he had an instant line of support.
“Baseball is a brotherhood. When something happens to our own, everyone comes together — even more so when there are two people going through the same thing,” the 26-year-old Taillon said. “It made sense to reach out to each other and give our well-wishes and see if there’s anything we could offer up to each other.
“I just felt like if I needed anything or had a question, I was very comfortable going to ask him about any part of the process.”
Taillon did, too. Simple things: How often did you get your blood levels checked? What was the treatment like?
“It was really nothing crazy, but that was comforting,” Taillon said. “He was months ahead of me and what I was going through. It was nice to have somebody I could ask questions.”
Taillon’s eyes lit up when he heard that Bettis would come off the disabled list — Bettis has been dealing with a blister — to make the start. Bettis hadn’t been officially named the starter when the clubhouse was open Monday, but he did say how “cool” it would to face Taillon.
“It will be really nice for that to happen,” said Bettis, who returned to the Rockies’ starting rotation on Aug. 14, 2017, after his recovery.
Bettis hasn’t pitched for the Rockies since July 1 due to a blister on his middle finger. He’s tried every remedy, but it keeps bothering him. So the 29-year-old texted Taillon, who’s been dealing with a cut on his middle finger as well.
“He had some good insight,” Bettis said. “There were a couple things he was doing, that I felt we could try and see how it worked out. It was good to get some feedback.”
Taillon’s advice? Use a finger sleeve and take days off. He also told Bettis how precisely he was clipping his fingernails.
“But you can see I don’t have too much great advice,” Taillon laughed, showing off his cracked finger. “I’m still working through it. I’m still battling my own thing.”
It took Taillon about a month to return to the mound last season after testicular cancer surgery. In his first start back on June 12, 2017, he threw five scoreless innings as the Pirates beat the Rockies.
Later that season, Taillon got a hit off Chicago Cubs starter Jon Lester, a cancer survivor, and was chatting with first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma as a teenager.
“Rizzo looked at me and said, ‘Hey, there are three cancer survivors right here — me, you and Lester,’” Taillon recounted. “That moment was cool for me.
“Facing off against Chad will be one of those cool moments.”
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