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Pirates notebook: Opening starters Ivan Nova, Jameson Taillon bask in 'privilege'

Jerry DiPaola
| Thursday, March 8, 2018, 9:48 a.m.
Pirates pitcher Ivan Nova throws during a game against the Phillies Saturday, March 3, 2018, at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Ivan Nova throws during a game against the Phillies Saturday, March 3, 2018, at LECOM Park in Bradenton, Fla.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Ivan Nova has done it 160 times in the major leagues, made that walk from the bullpen to the mound as the day's starting pitcher.

But this is different. Now, he's doing it opening day March 29 for the Pirates at Comerica Park against the Detroit Tigers.

He's proud to stand in that spotlight.

"It's a privilege," he said, a day after he got the good news from manager Clint Hurdle. "You're the only one.

"Not even my family still believes it. They were texting me (Wednesday) the whole day. It's a big thing for me."

Nova made his MLB debut at Comerica in 2010 when he was pitching for the New York Yankees. But the familiar surroundings are only a small perk.

"I feel comfortable anywhere," he said.

Meanwhile, Jameson Taillon, named the starter for the home opener April 2 against the Minnesota Twins, is excited to earn that distinction because of the special bond he now feels with Pittsburgh.

"I'm a new homeowner up there," he said. "Proud to be a Pittsburgher."

Taillon joked, "I got a lot of tweets about people who aren't going to be coming after I tweeted, but no, I'm really excited." It's an honor for Taillon, 26, even though it's the fourth scheduled game of the season.

"It's only my second (home) opening day to even be a part of a team," he said. "Just to get the home opener in my second full year is really exciting.

"I'm honored. Hopefully, five years down the line, I'll get an opening day, I don't want to undersell the fact that I get to pitch the home opener in Pittsburg h."I love PNC Park, best park in the leag ue."But no sense taking it too seriously.

"There are hopefully 32 total starts so this is just one of 18 I'll be making at PNC," he said.

Nava's back

Daniel Nava is an optimist, and not without cause.

He was on his feet hours after back surgery Feb. 27. "Thank God for technology," said the 35-year-old, who was signed by the Pirates in the offseason as outfield insurance.

The pain in his back is gone, and he's returned to a baseball environment at Lecom Park, rehabbing and trying to return to action sometime in the 10-12 week recovery period.

Nava said he worked out throughout the offseason without much trouble.

"It was fine. It was tolerable," he said. "I thought it would get better."

But on the first day of spring training, with lots of movement and running, he noticed something "flat-out wrong."

An MRI revealed areas of a disc that had fallen out of its proper placement.

"The nerve was being basically compressed," he said.

Faced with weeks of rehab, Nava said he hasn't spoken to Pirates management about his place in the organization after he heals.

"There's far too many things to focus on before we get to that."

Tomlin at the ball yard

On a chilly, breezy day more suited to the middle of the football season in Pittsburgh, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin visited Lecom Park with general manager Kevin Colbert and several assistants.

Pirates manager Clint Hurdle made sure to clear time on his agenda to chat with Tomlin about how the two men do their jobs.

"Every year, we find some time to get together," Hurdle said. "We're cross-pollinating different things with analytics. I have questions for them during the football season and they have questions for us now we're cranking the baseball season. We're kind of comparing notes."

Although Tomlin deals with a different squad in terms of numbers, Hurdle said, "I appreciate Mike's lens on things and the way he works with his men. How you keep it individual, how you still keep it personal when you're dealing with large groups."

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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