Cole, Taillon: Next wave to hit Bradenton

Right-handers Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, firmly locked in as the Pirates’ top two prospects for a second consecutive year, both received invitations on Thursday to the club’s Major League Spring Training camp.

The Bucs also extended Spring Training invitations to a pair of freshly-signed Minor League free agents, one with extensive big-league experience. Outfielder Brad Hawpe and catcher Lucas May signed Minor League deals.

This will be a return to Pirate City for Cole, who got his professional feet wet in Bradenton last year prior to a rookie season in which he ascended from Single-A to Triple-A. The overall No. 1 choice in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft went an aggregate 9-7 with a 2.80 ERA in Bradenton, Altoona and Indianapolis.

Taillon, the Pirates’ top Draft choice and the overall No. 2 selection in 2010, will be attending his first big-league camp. Drafted out of high school and thus one year younger than UCLA product Cole, Taillon went 9-8 with a 3.55 ERA between Bradenton and Altoona in 2012.

Both Cole and Taillon participated in the MLB Futures Game prior to the 2012 All-Star Game in Kansas City.

Hawpe and May both spent the entire 2012 season in the Minors after attending the big-league Spring Training camps of the Rangers and the Mets, respectively.

Hawpe is an eight-year big-league veteran, the first six-and-a-half with the Colorado Rockies when they were helmed by current Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle. With the Rockies, Hawpe batted .280 with 118 homers and 464 RBIs in 816 games.

May, no relation to former Pirates catcher Milt May (1970-73), had 37 at-bats with the Royals in 2010 but the 28-year-old receiver has toiled in the Minors for the rest of his 10-year professional career. At Triple-A Buffalo last season, he batted .215 in 75 games while throwing out 15 of 58 runners attempting to steal.

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