Taillon ready to serve as Bucs' No. 2 starter

Pitching back-to-back with Cole is dream come true for young righty

Taillon ready to serve as Bucs' No. 2 starter

BOSTON -- Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon used to talk about weeks like this in 2012, back when they were prospects pitching in the Florida State League. Even at the beginning of their careers, they thought about a future in which they started, one after the other, in the Pirates' rotation.

Cole started on Monday, taking the loss in the Pirates' 5-3 Opening Day defeat. Now, it's Taillon's turn, as the second-year starter prepares to pitch Wednesday night at Fenway Park in the Bucs' second game of the season.

"This is what we've dreamed of. This is what I think a lot of fans have dreamed of," Taillon said. "Now, we're doing it. Now, we get to do it for a whole year."

Taillon joined Cole in Pittsburgh last season, but the duo never pitched consecutively. He returned this year to a rotation that bears little resemblance to the group that opened last season: Cole, Francisco Liriano, Jonathon Niese, Juan Nicasio and Jeff Locke.

This year's starting rotation is young, with Ivan Nova (30) the only starter older than 26-year-old Cole. Taillon is 25, Chad Kuhl is 24 and Tyler Glasnow is 23. With youth comes potential, but also uncertainty.

"Last year's group had a lower ceiling but a higher floor. This year's group has a lower floor but a higher ceiling," general manager Neal Huntington said during Spring Training. "We love the ceiling of this group, and we're looking forward to some guys stepping forward."

Huntington on pitching staff

Taillon stepped forward last season, posting a 3.38 ERA over 18 starts in his Major League debut. Pirates coaches, officials and teammates rave about his polish and poise. Taillon believes he took another step this spring, improving his changeup and minimizing the difference between his good and bad days on the mound.

Last year, Taillon was sent to Minor League camp on March 14, the same day as Kuhl, Glasnow, Trevor Williams and Steven Brault. In his exit interview, Taillon said he was "sick of being a prospect" and didn't want to get sent out again.

For Taillon, simply being a part of the Opening Day roster this year is meaningful.

"I feel more a part of the team, I guess," he said. "Last year, getting called up halfway, I was kind of trying to stay out of everyone's way, stay quiet and just do my job."

Taillon on making adjustments

Taillon is now the Pirates' No. 2 starter, having established himself as a key part of their present as well as their future. Kuhl will start Thursday's series finale. Glasnow is their fifth starter. Williams is in the big league bullpen. Brault might be the Bucs' first pitcher called up when the need arises. They all opened last season in the rotation -- for Triple-A Indianapolis.

"That's what we need to do and cultivate," manager Clint Hurdle said. "You've got to go out and find these young men that your player development people put their hands on and then harvest them, help them grow up."

The Pirates drafted and developed four of their five starters -- everyone but Nova. That was always the goal for Cole and Taillon, something to dream about. Isn't a homegrown rotation also a point of pride for the organization?

"If they go out and pitch to their capabilities, it will be," Hurdle said. "Absolutely."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.