The Ace, Future and Question in Pirates rotation show mixed results
BRADENTON, Fla. — Tyler Glasnow walked up to Gerrit Cole in the Pirates clubhouse early Friday morning, a few hours before the right-handers were set to face the Baltimore Orioles.
“I'm a little nervous,” Glasnow said.
Cole nodded and said, “I'm a little nervous, too.”
Drew Hutchison, who also was scheduled to pitch at LECOM Park that day, joined the conversation.
“Dude,” Hutchison announced, “I'm nervous.”
Three nervous pitchers, each with different roles to play this season in the starting rotation. Cole is the ace. Glasnow is the future. Hutchison is the question.
Cole already has been named the opening day starter. Friday's game was his spring debut, and he took a businesslike approach.
Cole allowed two hits, a walk and no runs over the first two innings. He fired fastballs and two of his three secondary pitches.
“I haven't incorporated the slider, yet,” Cole said. “But I did (throw) the curveball and the changeup. I thought they were spinning pretty well.”
As he warmed up in the bullpen, Glasnow figured Cole was putting together a solid opening act.
“It's hard to one-up him, that's for sure,” Glasnow said, grinning.
Glasnow and Hutchison are battling for the last open spot in the rotation, so the type of nerves they feel are different from Cole.
“I look forward to that feeling every start,” said Glasnow, 23, the club's top pitcher prospect. “You can either tell yourself it's nerves or it's excitement. I think the day I don't feel nervous before a start is the day I'll have to retire and go play golf of something … and I'm really bad at golf.”
Glasnow was scheduled to throw up to 50 pitches over three innings. The outing was bumpy, though, and he was out of the game after tossing 45 pitches and getting just four outs.
“Today, he kind of conflicted himself,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He pitched behind most of the day. He didn't back off at all, which was good to see, and he kept away from the big inning. Just not enough quality strikes.”
Glasnow yielded three hits and walked two, but the Orioles got just one run off him. With a 3-2 count against Ryan Flaherty, pitching coach Ray Searage made a mound visit.
“He told me, ‘Keep your pace the same. Don't slow down. Don't go too fast,' ” Glasnow said “He was giving me a little bit of a breather. I had a nice, little a-ha moment of making sure I stay within myself. I started to feel really good again.”
Flaherty hit two foul balls — the second one was loud and soared far down the right-field line — then popped out meekly to second baseman Max Moroff.
Hutchison put up a sparkling line: one hit, one walk, zero runs, four strikeouts. Some perspective is necessary, though — Hutchison worked the sixth through the eighth innings, when the Orioles unleashed their backups and minor leaguers.
“Sometimes, those guys come off the bench, (and) they're hard to pitch to,” Hurdle said. “They're aggressive. They don't care about a whole lot other than looking for a pitch to hit and driving it. Drew made pitches, threw strikes and changed speeds, so it was a good outing for him.”
Hutchison, 26, was the Toronto Blue Jays' opening-day starter in 2015. He spent most of last season in the minors before being traded to the Pirates for Francisco Liriano, Reese McGuire and Harold Ramirez.
Can he stick with the Pirates and reignite his career? This spring will be Hutchison's best — perhaps only — chance to impress management.
“You just compete and take care of your business,” Hutchison said. “It's nothing new. This is going to continue your entire career. I've been though this many times. I have a lot of confidence in myself and my ability.”
Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.