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Pirates prospect prepares for AA debut

| Wednesday, June 20, 2012, 12:30 a.m.
Christopher Horner
Pirates pitching prospect Gerrit Cole pitches in an intrasquad game during spring training 2013 at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla.
Christopher Horner
Pirates pitching prospect Gerrit Cole works out during spring training at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

Gerrit Cole said it will be just another game when he takes the mound Wednesday night in Altoona for the first time at the Double-A level.

Spoken like a true pitcher. Cole cannot afford to get overly excited about his debut for the Curve, or anything else at this point.

"It's something I've gotten a lot better at, and it's definitely part of my routine now," he said.

But Cole's promotion from High-A Bradenton represents a major leap for the Pirates' top prospect, if not the entire organization. The club invested the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft and a record $8 million bonus in the 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-hander, He is the cornerstone of a mission to build a dominant pitching staff and bring respectability to a long-scuffling franchise.

Cole, 22, signed in mid-August just before the deadline. It was too late to play in the minors, but he pitched well in the Arizona Fall League. After a brief spring training fling with the Pirates, he started the 2012 season in Bradenton, going 5-1 while striking out 69 and walking 21 in 67 innings. He had a 1.96 ERA in his past 10 games.

"Poise has been the primary focus for him," Pirates assistant general manager Kyle Stark said. "He has made huge strides in this area - trusting himself, not trying to do too much, staying composed and so on. This helped him in his preparation and how he competes every fifth day."

The Pirates like to take their time with prospects and appear to be treating Cole no differently. The Arizona Diamondbacks, on the other hand, are quickly moving Cole's former UCLA teammate, pitcher Trevor Bauer, through their organization.

Picked third overall last year, Bauer has excelled in Double-A and Triple-A this season, and his promotion to the big club might happen sooner than later. Cole was asked if that makes him more anxious to get to the Pirates.

"I just try to focus on what you can control," he said. "It's a different organization, maybe a different situation with Arizona. The only thing I know is what I do here and what I'm supposed to do and go about my business."

Rob Biertempfel contributed to this report. Bob Cohn is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at bcohn@triblive.com

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