BRADENTON, Fla. -- Jameson Taillon and Vic Black, two of the Pirates' highly touted pitching prospects, were included in the 11 players sent to Minor League camp Wednesday as the club made its first cuts of the spring.
Taillon had just returned to the Major League camp off a performance in the World Baseball Classic for Canada against the United States that further impressed Pittsburgh general manager Neal Huntington. Nevertheless, the 2010 No. 1 Draft pick retraced the '12 spring steps of Gerrit Cole, who got his first exposure to a big league environment in Spring Training, then a quick ticket to Minor League camp.
"He handled himself well, showed the maturity, poise and stuff that has us so enthusiastic about his future," Huntington said of Taillon, the organization's No. 2-ranked prospect who had allowed one earned run in four innings of his Classic start. "We wanted to give him a taste of Major League Spring Training, take away a bit of the awe factor -- though I don't think much awes him -- then get him ready for the season. Exact same situation as we had with Gerrit a year ago."
Black, ranked as the Pirates' No. 17 prospect by MLB.com, was considered a prime candidate for the bullpen, but became an early victim of the intense competition that has developed for three voids.
Black was optioned to Triple-A Indianapolis, along with fellow right-handers Stolmy Pimentel, Hunter Strickland and Duke Welker, infielder Clint Robinson and outfielder Jerry Sands. Sands and Pimentel both came from Boston in the deal involving Joel Hanrahan.
Reassigned to Minor League camp along with Taillon were infielders Matt Hague and Anderson Hernandez, outfielder Darren Ford and righty Erik Cordier.
The moves left 51 players in camp, including Jason Grilli and Wandy Rodriguez, continuing in Classic play with Italy and the Dominican Republic, respectively.
Sands and Robinson were part of the congested situations at first base and right field, positions both play. Sands will play primarily right field in the Minors, according to Huntington.
"There's very little doubt in our minds that they'll help us out this season at some point," the GM said. "We wanted to make sure to give them at-bats [in Minor League exhibitions, which began Wednesday] to get them off to a good start.
"We've got good depth and want to make sure these guys get an opportunity to play. We told everybody out the door: We're not going to go with 12 pitchers and 13 players all season; the more guys we have come up and not miss a beat, the better team we'll be."
If the first batch of cuts included a surprise, it was Hague. The sensation of last spring -- when he led the Pirates with seven homers and earned "The Hit Collector" nickname from manager Clint Hurdle -- was enjoying a similar run in exhibition play. Hague had six hits in his last seven at-bats and departed with a .364 average.
"It was tough to send him out in the middle of the stretch he's in," Huntington said, "but we've got some guys ahead of him in the competition [for backup corner infielder]. He'll work a lot at third base. He worked so hard this offseason, is so much more mobile at third."
Black (2.25 ERA), Pimentel (2.45), Strickland (0.00), Welker (3.00) and Taillon (one unearned run in two shutout innings in only outing) all made an impression in exhibition play.
"They all have good stuff but are at different points in their development," Huntington said. "They all showed up well in Spring Training. They'll continue their growth, and are guys we feel very comfortable with."
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.