Pirates prospects Cole, Taillon soak up hype
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- In a clubhouse swarming with reporters and swirling with questions, Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon stood close to one another Sunday, their lockers side by side.
The setting was the All-Star Futures Game at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium. The goal is to have the scene repeat itself at PNC Park in coming years.
"I think it says a lot for the Pirates to have two guys representing them here," Taillon said.
It has happened several times before, including 2009 when Pedro Alvarez and Brad Lincoln played in the Futures Game. But never before have the Pirates had two prospects of Cole's and Taillon's caliber appear in the same game.
The two right-handed power pitchers saw playing time for the U.S. Team, which beat the World Team, 17-5.
Cole hit 100 mph in his one-inning outing, but surrendered a two-run home run with two outs. He allowed two earned runs on one hit, striking out two and walking another. He threw 21 pitches, 14 strikes.
Taillon threw his fastball between 96-98 mph, hitting the latter frequently. He allowed one earned run after giving up two doubles. He threw 17 pitches, 12 strikes, in one inning.
Both are first-round draft picks -- Cole, 21, the No. 1 overall pick in 2011 and Taillon, 20, the No. 2 overall pick in '10. The two were peppered with questions throughout the day -- about their experiences, the draft, their seasons, their friendship, the Pirates and even their travel schedules.
Cole knew being selected was a special distinction. But he didn't realize what he was in for until Saturday night at the team hotel, overrun with people.
"You just don't really believe it till you make it," Cole said. "Then when you get here, this attention, all this stuff, it's pretty overwhelming."
They were joined by a third member of the organization, Class AAA Indianapolis pitching coach Tom Filer, who served as pitching coach for the U.S. Team.
"I think it's really cool to be part of this big picture," Filer said. "I'm touched."
Cole and Taillon started the year together pitching for Class A Bradenton, and excelled through the first couple of months of the season. But Cole, drafted out of college, earned a promotion to Class AA Altoona at about the same time Taillon, drafted after his senior year of high school, started to struggle.
In Altoona, Cole said he is learning more about how and when to use his pitches; in Bradenton, most instruction is focused on how to throw them.
"High [Class] A was more about mechanics and execution and [Class AA] is more of a chess match," he said.
In three starts for Altoona, Cole is 2-1 with a 4.63 ERA.
Taillon's struggles started in late May when he allowed six earned runs in a loss. It was the first in a stretch of six starts when he allowed at least four earned runs.
"It was kind of a tough time for me, for about a month," he said. "Mentally I was fine. Physically I was fine. But it seemed to be a stretch of five hitters a game that would mess up a start. Before you know it, blink of an eye, there's four runs."
It was a jolt for Taillon, who seldom faced adversity as a baseball player up to that point. Front-office personnel will frequently say they want prospects to handle adversity in the minor leagues so they know how to better deal with it in the majors.
"I definitely tell myself that," Taillon said with a laugh.
He changed his mentality on the mound to focus on his execution and less on his results. In turn, the results have followed. Taillon has allowed three earned runs or fewer in his past three starts.
"I've learned a lot about myself as a person, how tough I can be," he said. "I'm learning some things now that I'm glad I'm learning now."
Taillon was glad to see his onetime teammate, Cole, sitting just a couple of feet away at the Futures event.
"It's fun to be reunited with him," Taillon said.
But it was short-lived, as both will head for separate minor league destinations. They hope to have a longer reunion sometime soon on the North Shore.
NOTES -- Detroit prospect Nick Castellanos hit a three-run homer in a nine-run sixth, and Royals minor league outfielder Wil Myers added three RBIs to lead the U.S. Team to a rout. Castellanos was the game's MVP. ... Orioles prospect Dylan Bundy earned the win by pitching a scoreless fourth.
First Published July 9, 2012 12:00 am