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Cole's ascension may provide blueprint for Taillon

Pirates' young right-handers have the potential to become dynamic duo

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The Pirates sent them out to the mound one after the other Friday, with Gerrit Cole pounding 95-mph fastballs down in the strike zone for two innings and Jameson Taillon doing much of the same for the next two.

It would seem Cole and Taillon have developed that way as well, with Cole having already laid out the blueprint for the final stages of Taillon's ascent to the Majors this summer. A year ago in Spring Training, Cole found himself in a similar spot as Taillon -- close to the Majors and ready to graduate into the Pirates' rotation, but not quite there.

So, what advice would the 23-year-old Cole pass on to the 22-year-old Taillon at this stage of his career?

"He's just got to take it day by day and just try to get better," Cole said. "And not worry about the distractions like the media telling him he's coming up in June or, 'Have you learned anything from Gerrit?' every day."

Taillon said it was "really cool" to pitch back-to-back with his friend and Spring Training roommate, and it might have been even cooler for Pittsburgh fans considering what the duo means for the immediate future of the Pirates franchise.

Cole started off a little rocky in Friday's 4-2 loss to the Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium, allowing two runs on three hits in his first inning, before bouncing back with a perfect second frame in which he struck out two batters looking.

Taillon, meanwhile, was "sharp from the get-go," as manager Clint Hurdle put it, allowing only an infield single as he retired six of the seven batters he faced.

"We're excited about them in particular. We're excited about our entire farm system," Hurdle said. "Those two guys, obviously one's gotten to the Major Leagues, one's closing in on that opportunity."

It's easy to group the two of them together as one unit, as was the case Friday and a year ago, when the top-rated prospect pitching tandem started opposite each other in the Pirates' annual Black and Gold Game.

Taillon was drafted second overall in 2010, and Cole was the No. 1 pick a year later. Cole made his Triple-A debut in 2012, put in 12 more starts for Indianapolis in '13 and went on to win 10 games with a 3.22 ERA for the Pirates en route to two memorable postseason starts in the National League Division Series.

The expectation, then, is that Taillon, who pitched in six Triple-A games last season, will do something similar later on this year. And the Pirates' top prospect admitted that this spring already has a different feel to it than last year, even though he's still technically just a non-roster invitee.

"Last year, I came into Spring Training, they told me I was going to get cut at first cuts. Just come in, get the experience, follow the right guys around, get to know the players, get to know the coaches, get to know the routine, what to do, how to act," Taillon said Friday. "This year is definitely a little different. I think I'm going to get some more game action, and I know how things work, so it's a little more comfortable."

Taillon expressed his admiration for the way Cole pitches -- his delivery and fearlessness, in particular -- but both said there's only so much they can talk about when it comes to pitching. Cole argued that they're "really different" aside from the fact that they light up radar guns, pointing to Taillon's more advanced curveball as a noticeable difference.

It was a reminder that, in a way, Cole also is still learning. This is essentially the first time Cole has come to Spring Training knowing it will end with a spot in the big league rotation. Cole said he won't treat this spring any differently, although he is toying with the curveball that really came on toward the end of last season.

"Just keep throwing it, doing a better job of learning the effect that it has on the hitter and how to set it up then kind of use it in reverse to make your fastball better," Cole said. "I don't have too much insight other than I just try to be on time with it and stay on top of it."

Taillon is in the process of polishing up his game, too. He confessed Friday that runners had taken advantage of him in the Minors, so he and pitching coach Ray Searage have worked this spring on controlling the opponents' running game.

He displayed some of those improvements Friday and called it "one of the last things I need to take care of."

If he continues to check past all those necessary developmental milestones along the same path Cole traveled a year ago, it might not be too long before he's following Cole straight to the Majors.

"They have the skill set, the mound presence, all the things you need to have two stalwarts in your rotation," Hurdle said.

Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Gerrit Cole, Jameson Taillon