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Pirates set to promote Cole to Altoona

| Friday, June 15, 2012, 3:22 p.m.
Christopher Horner
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole, the team's No.1 draft pick in 2011, holds a ball for a portrait during photo day Sunday February 26, 2012 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Florida. (Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review)

CLEVELAND — It didn't take long for Gerrit Cole to show he has nothing left to prove in Single-A.

Cole, whom the Pirates selected with the draft's first pick last year, will be promoted Wednesday to Double-A Altoona, the team announced Friday.

The right-hander is slated to start that night against New Britain. Cole, 22, was 5-1 in 13 starts for High-A Bradenton. On Thursday, he tossed five scoreless innings against Fort Myers to lower his ERA to 2.55, which is fourth-best in the Florida State League.

“He's a highly motivated, highly skilled young man,” said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, who saw Cole in spring training. “He was in a league where, how many punches were being thrown back at him? I'm sure there were some. But when you're continually better than your competition, you want to rise to a level where there are more challenges.”

Cole's promotion is not unexpected. The Altoona media guide, printed before the season, includes Cole's bio. Going into this season, Baseball America ranked Cole the Pirates' top prospect. Drafted out of UCLA, last season he made five starts in the Arizona Fall League, where teams send their top prospects.

For Bradenton, he racked up 69 strikeouts in 67 innings. He was named to today's Florida State League All-Star Game but will not attend due to his promotion.

“He's having a weird season, and I mean that in the kindest of ways,” ESPN.com minor league analyst Kevin Goldstein said. “Many people, including myself, expected inconsistency from Cole. I envisioned some eye-popping lines and some that were downright bad. Instead, we've gotten neither of those things. He's just been consistently good, and the consistency is a really pleasant development.”

Goldstein noted that Cole did not have more than seven strikeouts in any start for Bradenton but is among the league leaders in strikeouts per nine innings.

“There's not one, specific thing for him to work on,” Goldstein said. “It's just the need to continue to take steps forward in the harnessing of his stuff. You watch him be good, but you still walk away thinking he can be better.”

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com.

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