JUPITER, Fla. -- In a division race that went to the final days of the 2013 season, the Cardinals had an up-close look at some of the young talent the Pirates hope will make them perennial contenders. There's more coming, too -- something that the Cardinals' own young gem, Michael Wacha, knows well.
After being introduced by mutual friends, Wacha and fellow 22-year-old Jameson Taillon, the top pitching prospect in Pittsburgh's farm system, spent the offseason working out together. The two lived within minutes of each other in The Woodlands, Texas, a suburb of Houston, and trained at the same facility.
Their friendship was fostered through "Call of Duty" competition, too, something that Wacha said will continue into the season. More often than not, Taillon wins those battles. It was Wacha, however, who was the first of the two 6-foot-6 right-handers to break into the big leagues.
"It doesn't surprise me he was able to take it [the Majors] by storm like that," Taillon said. "I guess I was surprised he got up there so quickly. But he has that attitude that no challenge is too big. He's a calm, real quiet guy. He made the most of his opportunity."
Both Wacha and Taillon began their professional journeys as first-round Draft picks. Taillon was taken second overall, out of high school, in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft. Two years later, Wacha came out of Texas A&M as a junior when the Cardinals picked him 19th.
The two could be dueling from Major League mounds as early as this season.
"He's a stud," Wacha said of Taillon. "I would watch some of his bullpens that he would throw down there. Just a big body, athletic. He can bring it. He's got some nasty stuff."
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.