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Pirates notebook: Cole still not dominating Triple-A

| Sunday, May 26, 2013, 2:45 p.m.

MILWAUKEE — Gerrit Cole has not performed like industry analysts expect a consensus top-10 overall prospect to pitch in Triple-A this season.

Cole has posted below average strikeout (6.5 strikeouts per nine innings) and walk (4.3) rates to go along with a 3.67 ERA despite owning a rare skill-set that includes three plus pitches: fastball, slider and changeup. If seeking a positive indicator, hitters have had a difficult time squaring him up; he's holding opponents to a .207 batting average.

After a rough first inning Saturday with Indianapolis, Cole regrouped to produce a final line of two runs and three hits allowed over six innings, walking three and striking out four.

“He's not a robot,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Sunday. “They are men playing the game, and other guys get pumped up to play against him and to hit against him, so if he's not at the top of the game there's a lot of Triple-A hitters who can take advantage of mistakes. It's not all about the guy. It's about the league.”

Unlike fellow hard-throwing, right-handed Pirates prospect Jameson Taillon, who has not thrown his curveball as often this season to focus on fastball command, Hurdle said Cole has not been restricted in what he throws.

“He has tried to find a better way to command all of his pitches,” Hurdle said.

Pedro Alvarez said he has felt better at the plate recently, and perhaps results are beginning to testify to that as the Pirates' third baseman hit two home runs Saturday in Milwaukee. Alvarez has hit all 10 of his home runs since April 18, leading the National League in that time span. Still, Alvarez possessed a .199 average entering Sunday, and Hurdle has not seen enough consistency to move Alvarez higher in the lineup. Alvarez batted sixth Sunday against Brewers ace Yovani Gallardo. The Pirates hope Alvarez eventually asserts himself as a cleanup hitter. “Pedro will let us know when he's ready to hit in the middle. He hasn't let us know that yet. I've tried that twice, and I've had to back away,” Hurdle said. “I (saw consistency) on the road. Then I didn't at home. Then I did against Houston, then the Cubs series not so much. (Saturday) the swing looked like it was in a good place.”

• Alvarez has five “no doubt” home runs according to hittrackeronline.com, second most in the majors and tied with Robinson Cano, Justin Upton, Miguel Cabrera, Mark Trumbo and Alex Rios. Four of Alvarez's home runs have traveled at least 433 feet.

— Travis Sawchik

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