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Pirates notebook: Cole sharp in bullpen session

| Monday, Feb. 22, 2016, 5:30 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole throws his first bullpen session of spring training as pitching coach Ray Searage watches Monday, Feb. 22, 2016, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole smiles and gives a high-five to catcher Chris Stewart after throwing his first bullpen session of spring training Monday, Feb. 22, 2016, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole waits to pitch his first bullpen session of spring training Monday, Feb. 22, 2016, at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.

BRADENTON, Fla. — Gerrit Cole still is playing catch-up in Pirates spring training camp, but Monday he took an important step toward ensuring he will be ready for Opening Day.

Cole threw a 20-pitch bullpen session without incident. It was the right-hander's first time on the mound after being sidelined the past few weeks by inflammation on his right rib cage.

“I was actually a little sharper than I expected,” said Cole, who threw 16 fastballs and four changeups. “It's good to feel like a pitcher again.”

The healthy pitchers in camp will begin throwing live batting practice Tuesday. For a little while longer, Cole will remain limited to bullpen sessions.

“The challenge is how we continue to build arm strength and fine-tune things at the same time,” Cole said. “These next few 'pens are going to be really important in terms of trying to stay focused on both of those tasks. Ray (Searage, pitching coach) and Todd (Tomczyk, athletic trainer) have done this lots of times before, so I'll just show up and do what I'm told.”

Wild-card woes

The Pirates tasted the playoffs for about three hours in each of the past two years with one-and-done losses in the National League wild-card game. Andrew McCutchen would prefer it if that round became a best-of-three series.

“I think that would make it a little more equal,” McCutchen said. “I don't know if I'd lobby for it, but I'm sure that's one of the things (MLB) has been talking about.”

After being blanked by hot pitchers — Madison Bumgarner in 2014 and Jake Arrieta last year — it was hard to watch the rest of the playoffs, McCutchen said.

“It stings,” he said. “You put yourself in that team's shoes. We could have been there, but we weren't. It's something you have to accept. We knew going in that one team had to win, one team had to lose. You move on.”

Around the horn

Every position player reported to camp before Monday's deadline. The first full-squad workout is Tuesday. Owner Bob Nutting will address the team Wednesday morning. … Manager Clint Hurdle said he has mapped out playing time for the first basemen this spring but did not elaborate. Mike Morse and former catcher John Jaso will platoon there this season. “We need to get Jaso good reps on the field,” Hurdle said. Jaso has been training at Pirate City since January and should be game-ready when the Grapefruit League schedule begins. Josh Bell, who likely will be among the first players sent to minor league camp, also will get game time in early March.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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