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Cole-Taillon intrasquad showdown lives up to hype

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Gerrit Cole vs. Jameson Taillon lived up to the crazy interest in Friday's intrasquad game. The righties -- the Pirates' top two rated prospects -- each started with two shutout innings in a 2-2, 5 1/2-inning tie in revamped McKechnie Field's first action.

Cole allowed one hit and Taillon two, with neither issuing a walk while earning high marks from manager Clint Hurdle on all counts.

"I liked the pace on the mound, especially those first two pitchers," Hurdle said. "Both pitched very well today. They're good, young pitchers, you expect to see good things from them, and we'll look for more good things next time they get the ball."

That sounded like Hurdle's way of proclaiming that both Cole and Taillon will debut in Major League competition during the Grapefruit League season that begins Saturday. This is Taillon's first big league camp, and Cole's exposure a year ago had been limited to a similar intrasquad-game outing.

"This was a different setting," said Cole, who pitched in relief last spring. "I had time to go through my routine this time, which was nice. It was good to see some hitters. It started to be familiar again at the end, getting used to the atmosphere."

"Before the game, maybe a little bit [of nerves], but once you throw that first warmup pitch, it's all out the door and it's what you always do," said Taillon, who had three strikeouts to Cole's one. "I felt good. Got to move that L-screen [used in batting practice for protection] out of the way, which was nice."

As for the Cole-Taillon angle, which had fans far away buzzing in anticipation of essentially a workout?

"I know it's a cool story," Taillon acknowledged, "but it was just about a couple guys going out there and getting their work in for a couple of innings."

Added Cole, "I guess it's pretty cool, that level of excitement. Unfortunately, for us it was just an intrasquad game in February."