Starkey: Pirates have a problem
TribLIVE Sports Videos
People have been calling for the Pirates to trade for a starting pitcher. Dealing staff ace Gerrit Cole for Jeff Locke likely isn't what they had in mind.
It's the only exchange on the table at the moment, however, because Cole has “some shoulder fatigue,” manager Clint Hurdle said, and is a candidate for the disabled list. Locke is expected to take Charlie Morton's start Sunday. Morton will take Cole's turn Monday.
From there? Nobody knows. But it's fair to say the Pirates' season could hang in the balance.
Losing Cole for an extended period could be a death blow for a team that remains three games under .500 and seven games out of first place in the NL Central after a 9-3 loss Saturday.
For what it's worth, Hurdle didn't sound overly concerned. He wasn't definitive, either. And when you're talking about pitchers and shoulders and elbows and soreness and “fatigue” and disabled lists, you just never know.
Remember when Jameson Taillon had a sore elbow? That turned into Tommy John surgery two weeks later.
Cole and Andrew McCutchen are the two most indispensable players on the team. Cole leads the staff in wins and innings, though he clearly hasn't been the guy we saw late last season — the guy who struck out 39 hitters in 32 September innings and followed up with two solid playoff appearances.
Second baseman Neil Walker, like Hurdle, didn't seem alarmed.
“We have the utmost confidence in (Cole) every time he takes the mound, but we need him for August and September, too,” Walker said. “He obviously needs to get a blow here and get his feet back underneath him.”
Edinson Volquez's take: “He's young. He'll be all right.”
And who knows? This could be a good thing, if a little rest brings back the animal we saw in September.
The pregame Saturday was rife with mystery surrounding Locke being pulled from his previous start at Triple-A Indianapolis. After the game, Hurdle confirmed that Cole would miss at least his next start.
Asked to elaborate on the word “fatigue,” Hurdle said, “I think you can look it up and figure out what it means. That's the best I got for ya.”
Did Cole have an MRI?
“I don't even go there,” Hurdle said. “That's a part that I don't dabble into.”
We know this much: Cole's 196 innings last season, between Triple-A and the majors, were by far the most he'd ever logged. And after working at least seven innings in four of his first seven starts this season, he couldn't get past 6 1⁄3 in any of his past five.
Pressed for his gut feel whether this could be something serious, Hurdle said, “I think fatigue is the proper word. If you look at the season he pitched last year, the run he went on with us late, coming out the chute (this season), we really feel that it's fatigue at this point in time.”
This didn't just happen, either. Hurdle said it was building.
“There have been some things that we've talked about, just some red flags that you pick up — consistency of pitches, volume of pitches, efficiency of pitches,” he said. “There's a lot of different factors that you look at. And you do talk to him and get his feedback.”
I tried to talk to Cole to get his feedback, as well, right after Hurdle spoke. He understandably was in no mood to talk. As he briskly walked away, his back pack slung over his shoulder, he said, “Not tonight.”
As it relates to the rest of Cole's scheduled starts, that better not be a phrase the Pirates hear more than a handful of times.
Otherwise, they could be doomed.
Joe Starkey co-hosts a show 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 93.7 FM. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Snow, freezing rain, bitter cold coming to Western Pa.
- Jerome Bettis to be enshrined in hall of fame
- Tennessee quarterback Peterman considers transfer to Pitt
- Iraqi libraries ransacked
- Suggestions are aplenty on what Penguins need to break through
- Springdale trestle bridge deemed structurally sound
- Familiar Downtown Pittsburgh presence lost arm, leg to train
- As banking goes mobile, branch closures rip through local economy
- Starkey: Pitt needs this version of James Robinson
- LaBar: WWE not backing down from controversy
- Pitt upsets No. 8 Notre Dame to snap losing streak