Taillon knows he'll get call when time is right
Pirates' top prospect could join buddy Cole in big league rotation this year
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Gerrit Cole was upset when midway through what he considered a telling Spring Training a year ago, the Pirates cut him from camp.
Jameson Taillon knows this, because he and Cole are not only a parlay in the Bucs' pitching grand design, but good friends who were locker-room neighbors in Pirate City.
Taillon also knows that when Cole finally got the call in mid-June, he was ready to answer. From his debut start on June 11, a few days after the second anniversary of his overall No. 1 selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, Cole won 10 games, tying for second most on the staff for the whole season.
So 2010's No. 1 Draft choice won't have a problem with being farmed out by the Bucs, even if Taillon is perfect in his first extensive exposure in their Major League camp. And even with the awareness that at least one major media source (USA Today) predicted him to be the 2014 National League Rookie of the Year.
"It's definitely an honor to even be talked about in those terms. But it comes before I've even thrown a pitch in the big leagues, so I don't read too much into it," said Taillon, who understands his organization's bent for taking things a little slower.
"I think, number one, the Pirates have more experience at this than I do. They've gone through it with a lot of guys," added Taillon, via phone from Bradenton, Fla., where he has been for two weeks, waiting for the official camp opening on Wednesday. "They know when the time is right. Even with Gerrit himself: He got called up at the perfect time, when he knew what he was doing and was fully ready."
For Cole, that time came after a dozen starts for Triple-A Indianapolis. Taillon, Pittsburgh's top prospect, is a bit ahead of that curve, having concluded 2013 with six starts for the Indians. He concedes he needs more.
"At Triple-A, development is not as significant. It's time to show what you've got," the field-smart 22-year-old said. "I get that. You see more professional at-bats, better team play. I was excited to go up there at the end of last season. It was definitely a jump, more about winning and the proper club atmosphere.
"I do feel like I've hit every level, and learned a lot. I've come a long way, become a more complete pitcher. But I've got more work to do on consistency. I've got the package to be successful but, even last year, different pitches would kinda take the day off."
Such growing pains are reflected in Taillon's overall unimposing Minor League resume: 16-21 with a 3.72 ERA in 75 games (74 starts). It is also a reminder that Taillon had a lot more to learn than did Cole; although they were drafted in successive Junes, Cole came out of college (UCLA) and Taillon out of high school.
But there is only a one-year age differential between them, and the physical twins (both sandy-blond and 235 pounds, the 6-foot-6 Taillon a couple of inches taller) have grown into soul brothers. Only appropriate, since in fans' minds, they are a set.
"And that's very cool," Taillon said. "We will forever be grouped together, and we can't shy away from that. We should follow each other in the Pittsburgh rotation for a long time, and that'll be a lot of fun.
"I know a lot of guys in the big leagues, but Gerrit is the first guy I truly know as a buddy. It was cool to get to see him do what he did last season. I loved watching him pitch in the Majors. I checked out his stat line every fifth day."
This will be Taillon's second big league camp as a non-roster guest, but last spring's invite almost doesn't count: He departed early to pitch in the World Baseball Classic for Canada (the Texan parents' birthplace, hence making him eligible), then was sent to Minor League camp upon his mid-March return.
"So, yeah, I'm definitely excited about spending the full camp with the guys. This year, I actually have a shot to stick around," he said. "Last year, to even be invited to camp was an honor, and no doubt it was a great experience. I got to learn what to expect."
He also got to make a start opposite Cole in the annual Black & Gold squad game -- and they matched two shutout innings. As a result, the buzz over what essentially was a workout approached the ridiculous. But both got it; fans were excited by a peek into the future.
Cole has become part of the present, and Taillon takes to the fast track with a new wingman. He and Tyler Glasnow are getting notice as one of the game's prime pitching prospect duos (MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo, in fact, rated them No.1). A couple of years ago, Cole and Taillon had that billing.
"He's electric," Taillon said of Glasnow, offering a unique scouting report on the 20-year-old, 6-foot-7 righty: "He wears size-17 shoes. Me, I'm only a 12-and-a-half."
If all goes well, they'll both make big footprints on the PNC Park mound.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.