Curve P not worried about neck pain

As one Pirates pitching phenom, Gerrit Cole, gets ready to make his major league debut Tuesday, another one, Jameson Taillon, had a minor hiccup in his season Sunday as he was scratched from his start with Curve because of a stiff neck.

Taillon said the issue is nothing serious and plans to make his next start, which should be Friday at home against Trenton.

“I definitely could have made the start, and I wanted to,” Taillon said after Sunday’s 5-2 loss to Binghamton, the Curve’s third straight.

“It’s nothing too serious, just woke up really stiff, couldn’t turn my neck around,” Taillon said. “Like someone called my name from behind me, I had to rotate all the way around.”

Taillon added he had a similar situation occur in spring training and that he pitched through it.

So there’s no cause for concern for the 2010 No. 2 overall draft pick, and in fact, Taillon is thrilled at this point. All because his good friend, Cole, is getting set for the start of his big league career Tuesday for the Bucs.

“I’ve been talking to him nonstop the past couple days,” Taillon said. “He’s excited. I think I’m just as excited for him.”

Cole and Taillon are considered huge parts of the Pirates’ future, and Taillon said seeing his buddy get to the big leagues “makes it more real” when it comes to seeing how close he is to the majors himself.

“He’s one of my best friends, I talk to him on the phone almost every day, and I mean, he’s there, he did it,” Taillon said. “We talk pitching all the time and stuff, so I don’t think I’m too far behind.”

How far behind? As long as everything goes well for Taillon, the time frame should be exactly one year from now.

Taillon likely will spend much of the rest of this season with the Curve and could get some time at Triple-A, then he would be projected to start at Indianapolis next year. If he performs well, a June 2014 call-up would be in the cards for him.

Why June? Because that’s when the Super 2 arbitration deadline passes each year, and the Pirates are not likely to ever call up a major prospect until after that deadline. They didn’t do it with Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez, Starling Marte or Cole, and there’s virtually no chance they’ll do it with Taillon.

If a player is called up before the Super 2 arbitration deadline, he stands to become arbitration eligible after only two seasons in the majors. He then would get an additional fourth year of arbitration eligibility, and that can cost a team $10 million or more down the road if the player becomes a superstar.

Taillon said his agent has informed him about the Super 2 aspect, but the pitcher only concerns himself with doing the best job he can right now rather than focus on the business side of the game.

“My goal is to get up [to the majors] whenever they think I’m ready,” Taillon said. “I’ll keep working here, but I don’t really have a set time.”

Taillon has been solid but not spectacular with the Curve, going 3-5 with a 3.11 ERA in 12 starts. He’s struck out 71 and allowed 64 hits in 66 2/3 innings, and hitters are batting .245 against him.

“He’s more mature, he’s a guy who talks more about the game,” said Curve manager Carlos Garcia, who also had Taillon at high-A Bradenton last year.

“Definitely I can see a guy who’s grown,” the manager added.

Taillon, when asked to evaluate his season so far, said he’s “thrown the ball well and learned a lot.”

“I feel like I’ve hit every part I wanted to work on,” he said. “My changeup has become a go-to pitch for me, my fastball command is improving, I’m still using my curveball really well.”

His focus for the rest of the season will be fine-tuning things.

“Just consistency, going out there every fifth day with the same effort, going deep into the game,” Taillon said.