PITTSBURGH -- Scanning the list of pitchers who will be stretched out to start in Spring Training, one set of numbers stood out to Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. Not their ERAs, not their Statcast™ spin rates, not even their ground-ball percentages.What got Searage fired up as he spoke with
PITTSBURGH -- Scanning the list of pitchers who will be stretched out to start in Spring Training, one set of numbers stood out to Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage. Not their ERAs, not their Statcast™ spin rates, not even their ground-ball percentages.
What got Searage fired up as he spoke with reporters Sunday at PirateFest? Their ages. Aside from left-hander Wade LeBlanc, 32, all of the Pirates' potential starters are between 23 and 26.
"That's fresh, baby! That's fresh," Searage said, smiling. "That's awesome. That's really good. It's going to be a busy time, but we're going to have to be able to learn quickly and make adjustments accordingly. I'm excited."
To review: Gerrit Cole, Drew Hutchison and Lisalverto Bonilla are 26. Jameson Taillon and Nick Kingham are 25. Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault and Trevor Williams are 24. Tyler Glasnow and Clay Holmes are 23.
They won't all start for Pittsburgh this season; LeBlanc and Bonilla may be bound for the bullpen, and Holmes was added to the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft. The Pirates are still on the lookout for a veteran starter, but it's clear they will lean on their young arms in 2017.
"They're going to make their mistakes, but also they're going to succeed. It's not like we're going out there hoping and wishing," Searage said. "These kids have got good aptitude. … There's also parts of the game they're going to have to experience in order to learn how to get better, but I'm excited about it. I really am. This is great."
Cole and Taillon are set atop the rotation. Kuhl has the inside track on one of the other three jobs. The final two spots are up for grabs, with Hutchison, Glasnow, Williams and Brault the most likely internal candidates. Kingham should be ready by next summer.
In that scenario, without any further trades or free-agent signings, Cole -- with four years and 94 starts of Major League experience -- could be the staff's veteran.
"It's great. We've got a lot of young talent," Cole said. "They have bright futures ahead of them. Obviously they have a lot of talent. Hard-working, good guys."
In some cases, their youth may not do justice to their maturity. Taillon and Kuhl, in particular, earn high praise for displaying preparation and focus beyond their years.
One other hidden benefit: They're not strangers to the Pirates' way of pitching.
Nearly all of those pitchers have spent time in Pittsburgh's Minor League system. Cole, Taillon, Kuhl, Glasnow, Kingham and Holmes were drafted and developed by the Bucs. Williams, Brault and Hutchison-- initially acquired in trades -- spent time in the high Minors before getting called up to Pittsburgh.
"It's a major benefit, because then they just slip right inside the shoe," Searage said. "They know the philosophy we have, our core values, through the organization from the top to the bottom hold true even when we get to the Major Leagues. … The philosophy that we have makes it so much easier because they know what to expect."
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.