The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local Sports

February 22, 2013

Prospects eager to move closer to majors

BRADENTON, Fla. — Pittsburgh Pirates clubhouse manager Scott Bonnett gave Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon adjoining lockers at the team’s training complex this spring, a symbolic gesture to what the flame-throwing youngsters represent.

The former first-round picks and the future of Pittsburgh’s pitching staff have no problem with the idea but the reminder was hardly necessary. Cole and Taillon know they’ll always be linked no matter where they toss their gear.

It’s what happens when a club that can be thrifty with its dollars spends a combined $14.5 million in bonuses – $6.5 to Taillon in 2010 and $8 million to Cole the following summer – to convince the burly right-handers to become the cornerstone of a franchise turnaround.

Beginning their second spring together as starters in waiting, the 22-year-old Cole and the 21-year-old Taillon are well aware of what’s at stake.

“I’m not naive to the external pressure,” Cole said.

He’s not bothered by it either.

The former UCLA star rocketed up Pittsburgh’s minor league system in 2012, streaking from Class A Bradenton to Triple-A Indianapolis in a matter of two months. He came to spring training as a nonroster invitee so management could get a good look at the kid with the mid-90s fastball and sizzling slider.

If Cole continues his rapid growth – both he and Taillon pitched two scoreless innings during an intrasquad scrimmage Friday – there’s a chance he could be in Pittsburgh sometime this summer. Catcher Russell Martin called Cole’s stuff “phenomenal” and sees all the traits of a talented major league starter.

“I know that he’s an intense competitor,” Martin said. “I know if he misses by three inches he’s not satisfied. Anybody with that type of mentality, that perfectionist mentality, they’re going to be pretty good.”

The Pirates might need Cole to be even better than that. Quickly.

Veterans A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez are signed through the end of the 2013 season, and it figures both could be too expensive to keep around. The Pirates hope by then that Cole – who went 9-7 with a 2.80 ERA in the minors last summer and is considered one of the 10 best minor league prospects in the game – will be ready with Taillon perhaps not far off.

Yet manager Clint Hurdle insists the Pirates will not rush either pitcher to the majors until they are ready. Though it’s hard to imagine Cole not making his major league debut at some point in 2013 if he remains effective and healthy, there remain benchmarks to clear.

“You set out the expectations and what we need to see from them for us to open the opportunity to get here,” Hurdle said. “There’s not really a timetable for that.”

Staying patient this close to your ultimate goal can be difficult. Taillon remembers flying to Pittsburgh to sign his contract and walking around PNC Park wondering when he’d be able to step onto the field. He figured it would be a year, maybe two. Three springs later, he’s still waiting.

“What you don’t realize is it’s a process and being 18 I was little young at the time,” Taillon said. “I’m enjoying the process now. Pressure-wise I’ve gotten pretty good at that. I’ve taken it into my own hands and set my own expectations and my own goals.”

Ones the 6-foot-6, 225-pound Taillon exceeded in 2012. He survived a rough patch at Class A Bradenton before flourishing after getting promoted to Double-A Altoona, where he went 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA. He will likely remain in Double-A to start the season but it’s not out of the question he could be in Pittsburgh by September.

Walking into the plush clubhouse at PNC is a dream long in the making for both Taillon and Cole.

The two don’t really talk about it while they lay around Cole’s condo – where Taillon is crashing during spring training – but it’s certainly understood.

“We plan on being up there, plan on pitching in the black and gold for a long time,” Taillon said.

And they plan on bringing a little swagger with them. Though they both have a full understanding of Pittsburgh’s struggles the last two decades, they don’t really care either. They’ve won their entire lives and have no plans on stopping once they get to the majors.

Asked why he chose baseball when his 6-4, 220-pound frame and athleticism certainly could have led him down another path, Cole thoughtfully tugged at his somewhat shaggy beard and smiled.

“I just love it,” he said. “There are some guys that do it for the money or they do it for whatever, I just like to just beat somebody. Kick somebody’s (butt) really. That’s what I like doing and that’s what I’m good at.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local Sports
  • Pirates 0720 Pirates rally to keep sweep

    Taking the extra base was the key for the Pittsburgh Pirates in completing a three-game sweep of the Colorado Rockies.
    Andrew McCutchen hit a tiebreaking single in the seventh inning, Neil Walker followed with a home run and the Pirates overcame a three-run deficit to beat the Rockies 5-3 Sunday.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • LAG 0720 AAABA League playoffs: Laurel Auto Group moves closer to advancing

    Second-seeded Laurel Auto Group fell behind early against No. 3 Berkley Hills Renegades on Sunday afternoon at Roxbury Park. But Laurel’s players didn’t lose their composure.

    July 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Urtz, Pope lead AAABA League award votes

    Logan Urtz hadn’t fielded a ground ball as an infielder or swung a bat in a game for a couple seasons.
    But you can’t take the former infielder out of a starting pitcher.

    July 20, 2014

  • Dodgers Pirates Polanco, Walker lift Pirates over Dodgers

    Gregory Polanco broke out of a slump with a solo home run and a tiebreaking two-run single, lifting the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 12-7 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night.
    Polanco, hitting just .133 in his previous 11 games, smacked a bases-loaded single with two outs in the sixth to put Pittsburgh in front for good.

    July 22, 2014 2 Photos

  • ACC Kickoff Football ACC schools get optimism from stability

    Welcome to the new Atlantic Coast Conference.
    It’s where a founding member is out, a fast-rising program is in, Notre Dame is there, too – sort of – and nobody else is leaving.

    July 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • aaaba 0721 Martella’s sweeps past Delweld

    A six-run rally in the first helped guide Martella’s Pharmacy to an 8-1 win over Delweld in Game 3 of their best-of-5 AAABA League semifinal series at Point Stadium, sweeping the series in the process.
    That rally also continued season-long trends for the clubs, according to their respective managers.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • warshel_0721 Warshel selecting UPJ

    For Kelci Warshel, the call to attend Pitt-Johnstown was based on the availability of her desired major – nursing.
    Taking an opportunity to join the university’s women’s track and field program was a very nice add-on and one that the Richland High graduate is ready to jump into ...
    ... Or hurdle over.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0721 Rallying Dodgers snap Pirates’ win streak at 3 games

    Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched seven strong innings, Adrian Gonzalez reached base five times and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-2 on Monday night.
    Ryu (11-5) joined Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw in making the Dodgers the first team in the majors with three 11-game winners.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pitt picked sixth in cluttered Coastal

    Florida State was an obvious choice as a favorite in one of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s divisions.
    In the other one, the pecking order was nowhere near that clear.

    July 21, 2014

  • Local Sports Briefs

    July 21, 2014

AP Video
Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence NYPD Chief Calls for 'use of Force' Retraining VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress Bush: Don't Worry, Sugarland Isn't Breaking Up US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch CDC Head Concerned About a Post-antibiotic Era Raw: First Lady Says `Drink Up' More Water Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Holder Urges Bipartisanship on Immigration Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights Obama Signs Workforce Training Law Crash Victims' Remains Reach Ukraine-held City Diplomatic Push Intensifies to End War in Gaza Cat Fans Lap Up Feline Film Festival Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment
Poll

What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

     View Results
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide