02/22/2013 5:03 PM ET
Cole-Taillon intrasquad showdown lives up to hype
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
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."
McPherson recovered from biceps tendinitis
BRADENTON, Fla. -- It is certainly a coincidence, but Jeff Karstens and Kyle McPherson, who found themselves two lockers apart when the Bucs moved back into McKechnie Field on Friday, share more than a locker-room neighborhood.
McPherson's winter league stint in the Dominican Republic was cut short by the same biceps tendinitis with which Karstens is now dealing.
Every situation is different, but McPherson, who made one start for Licey on Oct. 16 before having to shut himself down, said he didn't feel completely recovered until early February.
"It felt cranky when I got down there, but I tried to pitch through it," said McPherson, himself a candidate for the Pirates' rotation. "It bothered me the one game I did start, and when I threw a bullpen preparing for my next start, it hadn't recovered and I didn't want to take unnecessary risks in the offseason.
"I just wanted to shut it down and prepare for the season. I got down here in December and was still a little bit behind schedule and played catchup all January. But since camp began, I've been on a regular schedule, no problems."
Karstens' issue arose earlier this week, throughout which he has spent getting therapy and playing flat-ground catch. He starts off his days with a hot pack wrapped around his right shoulder -- as does McPherson.
• The Bucs' lineup for Saturday's Grapefruit League opener in Port Charlotte against the Rays:
Marte LF; Presley CF; Snider RF; Jones 1B; Alvarez 3B; Hawpe DH; McKenry C; Harrison 2B; d'Arnaud SS; Locke P.
Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker and the new man, Russell Martin, are anticipated to make their spring debuts on Sunday, when the Pirates host the Braves in their first home exhibition in McKechnie Field.
• Starling Marte christened McKechnie Field's new left-field bleachers Friday by jacking a two-run homer clear over them, then gave everyone a start by staying down a few seconds after launching into a full-body dive for a Brandon Inge liner.
Hurdle shrugged off the reckless play. "You let 'em play the game. He got a good break, laid out, and almost came up with it. Then he hits a ball over the left-field bleachers. You saw again why you like the guy."
The other squad's runs came on a Lucas May single and Alex Presley sacrifice fly.
• Pirates players spending their first morning in the new tricked-out McKechnie Field were blown away by the improvements to their training conditions, which include a greatly-expanded indoor batting area, an agility field for conditioning and a bullpen moved from foul territory in the right-field corner to behind the right-center wall and under the new boardwalk.
• Seeing Tony Watson do the "Jared Jaunt" -- impersonating the intense manner Jared Hughes first approaches the mound when he enters the game -- gets any morning off to a giddy start.
• A.J. Burnett spent the morning "editing" the daily agenda posted on the clubhouse bulletin board, such as crossing out "Active Warmup" and replacing it with "Stretching."
"Why don't we just call it what it is," Burnett said, with mock annoyance. "I'm changing it so I can understand it."
"I'm excited by the opportunity to play games. But as an old coach of mine kept saying, 'The good news is we get to play games. The bad news is we get to play games.' But it's time." -- Hurdle on Saturday's start of the Grapefruit League schedule, which sneaks up on his Pirates after only seven full-squad workouts.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.