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Nova, Taillon proud of Opening Day nods

Vet to start on 1st day of season; righty set for 1st game at PNC Park
MLB.com @adamdberry

BRADENTON, Fla. -- When pitching coach Ray Searage called Ivan Nova into manager Clint Hurdle's office on Wednesday morning, Nova's first thought was closer to fear than excitement.

"Usually when one of the coaching staff takes you to the office, it means good news or you're in trouble," Nova said. "I was like, OK, I'm in trouble."

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- When pitching coach Ray Searage called Ivan Nova into manager Clint Hurdle's office on Wednesday morning, Nova's first thought was closer to fear than excitement.

"Usually when one of the coaching staff takes you to the office, it means good news or you're in trouble," Nova said. "I was like, OK, I'm in trouble."

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It turned out to be good news. Hurdle, Searage and GM Neal Huntington informed Nova that he would be the Pirates' Opening Day starter on March 29 in Detroit. He was mostly quiet in that meeting, he said, but on Thursday morning he expressed his appreciation for the first-time honor.

"Awesome. It's a privilege," Nova said. "Every starting pitcher's dream is to start the season for a team, be the Opening Day guy."

Video: Nova discusses being named Bucs' Opening Day starter

Nova said his family didn't believe the news at first. He spent the first 6 1/2 years of his Major League career with the Yankees, bouncing from the rotation to the bullpen to the disabled list and back again. There, he saw CC Sabathia make six straight Opening Day starts before ceding the honor to Masahiro Tanaka in 2016.

"It's going to be fun," Nova said. "I said it when I signed here: I feel like this is a place I want to be, and I still feel that way."

Now, Nova will be the man atop the Pirates' rotation. In exactly three weeks, he will walk in from the visitors' bullpen with Searage and catcher Francisco Cervelli and open Pittsburgh's season against the Tigers at Comerica Park, the site of his Major League debut on May 13, 2010.

"It's got to be special for him," Cervelli said. "I'm really happy. But it's just another game."

In making the announcement on Wednesday, Hurdle called the 31-year-old right-hander the "dean" of Pittsburgh's rotation. Nova received the compliment with pride, as he hopes to continue mentoring the group of young starters -- including Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl and Trevor Williams -- he joined here in 2016.

"It means a lot. Not only from my manager, but the whole starting group and pitching staff, they treat me as a leader for them," Nova said. "They keep it easy on me. As long as they keep it that way, I'm going to be fine with it. I'm excited to have that role."

Video: Ivan Nova to start Opening Day for Pirates

Nova was not the only pitcher to receive his first assignment of the season on Wednesday. The Pirates told Taillon he will start the club's home opener against the Twins on April 2. It was an honor the 26-year-old right-hander did not take lightly, especially entering his second full Major League season.

"I'm really excited. I love PNC Park -- best park in the league," Taillon said. "I love pitching in Pittsburgh. New homeowner up there, too, so I'm proud to be a Pittsburgher. This means a little extra for me."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Still, Taillon kept the big picture in mind as he discussed the news on Thursday at LECOM Park. He made 18 starts in 2016 and 25 last year. With his first start officially on the schedule, he can continue preparing for what he hopes will be a full, healthy season.

Taillon made his Major League debut in Pittsburgh on June 8, 2016. When he returned to the mound last June following surgery for testicular cancer, he did so at PNC Park.

"The fans were really receptive to that," he said. "It's an honor to get to pitch in front of them."

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

Pittsburgh Pirates, Ivan Nova, Jameson Taillon