Spring training | Pirates prospects Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon on track for big things

Hopes remain high for top prospects Taillon, Cole

jlembo@bradenton.comFebruary 20, 2013 

BRADENTON -- Their lockers sit side by side inside the home clubhouse at Pirate City, their names written in yellow on a plate with a black background.

Jameson Taillon. Gerrit Cole.

They're a pair of power righties and former No. 1 draft picks brimming with potential.

The organization's goal is to one day see them fronting a rotation in Pittsburgh.

Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole. Or Gerrit Cole or Jameson Taillon. Right now, it doesn't really matter.

What does matter is that each absorbs all he can during an important spring.

Taillon, 21, is enjoying his first experience in big-league camp. The 22-year-old Cole is fresh from his first taste of professional baseball.

Before they help resurrect baseball in Pittsburgh, as both are projected to do, Taillon and Cole are all about getting better.

"There's no doubt it's different being on the other side and playing along big-leaguers here," Taillon said. "But at the end of the day, it's the same game. You've just got to go out there and throw the ball 60 feet, 6 inches. From that aspect, I'm doing fine, and I'm treating it like any other mound, any other game."

Hype has surrounded Taillon and Cole since the Pirates took them in the first round of the 2010 and '11 drafts, respectively.

Baseball America ranks Cole the 12th-best prospect in baseball and lists Taillon as 15th, and MLB.com has Cole ninth and kept Taillon at 15th.

Neither did little to quell such promise last season, when both earned promo

tions after breaking camp with the high Single-A Bradenton Marauders.

Taillon, who was 6-8 with 3.82 ERA in Bradenton, posted a 1.59 ERA and won all three of his starts and walked one batter while with Double-A Altoona after he spent all of 2011 with low Single-A West Virginia.

Cole, who was drafted out of UCLA, closed the year by making one start with Triple-A Indianapolis.

And both guys were selected to play in All-Star Futures Game.

"It was good to get moved up to Double-A. I had a couple of ups and downs throughout the year in high A," Taillon said. "I was really pleased with how the year went. Getting that push to Double-A was big for me from a confidence standpoint and as an experience standpoint. If I start back there again, in Double-A, I'll know what to expect."

Cole, ranked the top prospect and owner of the best fastball and best slider in Pirates' system by Baseball America, had a scary experience in Altoona when he took a line drive to the neck June 26. He finished the inning and put up solid numbers with the Curve, going 3-6 with a 2.90 ERA before his late-season promotion to Triple-A.

But Cole acknowledged Tuesday he was still a bit jumpy.

"I jumped (Tuesday) on a groundball, and it wasn't even close," he said. "I'm just a little hesitant, maybe."

Despite the incident, Cole said he took plenty away from his first pro season, which included 136 strikeouts and 45 walks in 132 innings to go along with a 2.80 ERA.

"It was a good foundation to build on and move forward on," Cole said. "It was good to get it out of the way."

The Pirates are taking their time with the two, who have 75 professional starts to their credit. Consequently, this spring is all about development.

"They're not in awe by any means," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "I think they've got a lot of respect, and that's one thing they share with all our new players -- fear nothing and respect everything when you come in the door. And I think those two men have that concept in their hip pocket pretty well."

Taillon is staying at Cole's place this spring, and while they sometimes compare notes and experiences, Taillon said the two are friends more so than two hot-shot prospects trying to make their way to the big leagues.

And that's their goal for now -- getting better for the future rather than focusing on it.

"There's no doubt it's fun to dream on and stuff, but I made it up to Double-A last year. So I've still got a ways to go and a couple of levels to cover," Taillon said. "Right now, I'm just focused on what I've got to do."

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