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Pirates starting pitchers present pack of trouble for opponents | TribLIVE.com
Pirates/MLB

Pirates starting pitchers present pack of trouble for opponents

Jerry DiPaola
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Joe Musgrove delivers during the first inning against the Diamondbacks Monday, April 22, 2019, at PNC Park.
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Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Jordan Lyles throws during the first inning against the Diamondbacks Wednesday, April 24, 2019, at PNC Park.

Outside of their families, no one knows the Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitchers better than the guy who, literally, puts their fate in his hands and fingers every time they step on the mound.

Catcher Francisco Cervelli, who has been in the majors since 2008 when some of his pitchers were still in high school, calls the pitches for Jameson Taillon, Trevor Williams, Jordan Lyles, Joe Musgrove and Chris Archer.

He knows what pitches they like to throw and which ones the batters detest.

“They are like a wolf pack,” he said. “They help each other. They show up in the stadium early. When someone is throwing in the bullpen, the other four guys are there watching.”

Told of Cervelli’s description, manager Clint Hurdle laughed but eventually agreed.

“I don’t know what wolves do,” he said. “I’ll play along. I think that’s a good term. They are connected. They are like-minded. I think every night they get the ball, that guy’s the alpha male that night.

“If we could take a look inside and MRI their emotions and their bravado, they’re alike.

Musgrove credited Williams with helping bring the starting staff together in spring training last year. They went to nearby high schools in El Cajon, Calif., and San Diego, but Musgrove was new to the Pirates after joining the team from the Houston Astros in the Gerrit Cole trade.

“Trevor brought us the idea of eating breakfast together every morning,” Musgrove said. “We sat down and had 30-minute breakfast every day, have our coffee and chat about the day or what we’re trying to accomplish and what’s working. Even if it has nothing to do with baseball.

“Now, we enjoy being around each other so much. It’s a good support system. We pay very close attention to each other so we can help each other get back on track when things get out of line.”

Through the first 21 games, that didn’t happen often.

Musgrove (1.59), Williams (2.59) and Archer (2.74) are third, eighth and 10th, respectively, in the National League in ERA. Taillon, the only one drafted by the Pirates (second overall in 2010), isn’t far behind at 3.12.

Musgrove is looking forward to the trip to Los Angeles this weekend when the Pirates meet the two-time defending National League champion Dodgers for three games. Musgrove will be matched against three-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw on Saturday night.

“That’s one guy I’ve watched for a long time,” he said. “It’s fun to go up against good competition. I feel like that raises my game to another level.”

Lyles, who started Wednesday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks, is the newcomer, signed as a free agent in the offseason. He took a 0.53 ERA in only 17 innings (not enough to qualify for the league leaders) into the game.

“What’s funny is Lyles is fitting right into that, with his experience, what he’s been through,” Hurdle said. “He feels a good cohesion and connection with these guys.”

Hurdle said Lyles’ personality is different from the other four.

“He’s probably the most vanilla,” he said.

When they were asked what they use for screen savers on their phones, some mentioned the Clemente Bridge or their kids.

Lyles said, “Whatever came with the phone.”

“I asked him, ‘You still got it?’ ” Hurdle said.

He said, “Yep.”

“I like them a lot. I do. I like the way they compete and what they bring to everybody else as well.”

Said Williams: “We have that competition amongst ourselves where we’re trying to outduel one another and trying to collectively be great.”

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jerry by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Pirates
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