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Bucs bonding at 'breakfast club'

Pirates pitchers get together every morning to eat, talk
MLB.com @adamdberry

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Every morning, a row of lockers in the Pirate City clubhouse stands unoccupied. Then all at once into the room walk Jameson Taillon, Joe Musgrove, Steven Brault, Trevor Williams, Chad Kuhl, Tyler Glasnow and a handful of other pitchers. It's not a coincidence of timing.

"That's on purpose. We're doing a little breakfast club every morning," Taillon said. "We just sit down and eat breakfast together."

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Every morning, a row of lockers in the Pirate City clubhouse stands unoccupied. Then all at once into the room walk Jameson Taillon, Joe Musgrove, Steven Brault, Trevor Williams, Chad Kuhl, Tyler Glasnow and a handful of other pitchers. It's not a coincidence of timing.

"That's on purpose. We're doing a little breakfast club every morning," Taillon said. "We just sit down and eat breakfast together."

It's an inclusive group -- everyone's invited -- but most of the usual members are young starters. It's nothing complicated, nothing too secretive. They just eat -- and talk -- for about 30 or 45 minutes each morning.

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They'll chat about whatever is on their minds, and with nearly everyone involved between 24 and 26 years old, they have plenty in common. It might be movies -- most recently "Black Panther" -- or whatever Brault and Williams have planned for their podcast. The conversation often turns to their experiences in baseball, shared or otherwise. Most of them have either recently established themselves in the Majors or hope to do so this year.

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Without Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole, the Pirates are building around more experienced players like Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco, Josh Harrison and Francisco Cervelli. But the key to their success may be the development of their young core, particularly the pitching staff.

"We're all ready to take a step together," Taillon said. "We all get along, genuinely enjoy each other's company. We like to push each other, talking baseball. There's a cool energy here.

"We're taking more ownership in our careers and pushing each other. There's a different sort of energy, at least with the younger guys now, kind of stepping up and maybe taking the spotlight a bit because we have to."

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A friend in the Cardinals system told Williams that Adam Wainwright often gathers St. Louis' pitchers together in the morning during Spring Training so that they can spend the entire day together as one unit. It's not an easy task with so many players operating on different schedules, but the Pirates have tried to find ways to work together as often as possible.

On Tuesday morning, Williams stopped by his locker after working out in the gym with other pitchers. Ivan Nova, the veteran of the group at 31, has been running outside with his fellow starters this spring. And then there's the breakfast club, which most often consists of Taillon, Musgrove, Brault, Williams, Kuhl, Glasnow, Clay Holmes, Nick Kingham and A.J. Schugel.

"We're not having profound conversations, like, 'Joe, what did you do on a 2-2 pitch in Game 6 of the World Series?'" Williams said, referring to Musgrove's postseason experience with the Astros. "We talk about stuff like that, but we're just talking and hanging out and building relationships."

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Manager Clint Hurdle and pitching coach Ray Searage often say they can't effectively coach if trust hasn't been established on both sides. The same statement applies within the clubhouse as players, some of them competing for the same jobs, praise and constructively criticize each other.

"It's the whole iron-sharpens-iron thing. That's what we're trying to emulate," Williams said. "When we have that collective, cohesive group that is sharpening each other, we need to be able to trust each other and be real."

And that process begins each morning in the Pirate City cafeteria.

"That all starts out with a relationship. You become friends, then you can dive into that stuff," Taillon said. "I would take criticism a lot better from someone I've eaten breakfast with. I know it's coming from a good place. They have my trust."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook and read his blog.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams