Pirates' Cole aces every test as a rookie pitcher in MLB
ST. LOUIS — Gerrit Cole did not face the same fate in 2013 as Stephen Strasburg did a season earlier, a factor playing a significant role in both the Pirates' first playoff berth in two decades and pushing the Cardinals to the brink of elimination in the NLDS.
In an era when many teams are cautious with prized young arms — the Nationals shut downStrasburg, who was coming off elbow surgery, before the playoffs last season and the Marlins ended rookie Jose Fernandez's season last month — Cole nearly reached 200 professional innings pitched (196 1⁄3) as a rookie, including 128 1⁄3 with the Pirates after being called up in June.
He logged 150 innings in 2012.
It was a considerable leap for a young arm. While the Pirates employ statistical analysis to monitor and in part determine workload limits for pitchers, the organization used an old-school approach of letting their eyes and Cole's performance dictate his limits.
The eyetest and Cole's performance determined the 23-year-old remain an essential part of the rotation in late September, and that he receive the Game 5 start Wednesday over veteran A.J. Burnett. Cole was the club's best starter after Sept. 1, going 5-1 with a 1.88 ERA.
“We've put our eyes on him. We've talked to our catchers,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “He's gotten stronger, it seems to us, from the visual aspect as the season has gone on. One other thing that we do old school, we actually communicate with the player. I just sat him down and said, ‘We need some answers here.' ”
Cole said he wasn't tired, and he never showed any sign of fatigue.
His fastball averaged 95.4 mph at the end of June. By the end of the season, his average fastball climbed to 96.1 mph, tops among MLB starters.
The UCLA product improved in the season's most trying period, posting a 10.7 strikeout rate in September.
Cole dazzled at times Wednesday, mixing a 100 mph fastball along with a knee-buckling curve. The rookie made one mistake, a hanging curveball to David Freese. But it was increased use and comfort with the curveball that improved his performance in September.
Until Freese's home run, Cole had allowed only one hit on his previous 232 breaking pitches, according to ESPN Stats.
“It was just a constant trying to get better,” Cole said.
Pirates general manager Neal Huntington never made public Cole's workload limit this season. He did label Cole's performance through a pennant chase as “astounding.”
By not facing an earlier, arbitrary innings limit, Cole also gained invaluable big-stage experience.
“I took it all in,” Cole said. “There were some good things, there were some bad things. There were things I would have done differently and there are things I won't change. But that just comes with being here.”
After years of squandering premium picks, the Pirates got their 2011 No. 1 overall pick right. They developed the most valuable of assets: a young, cost- and service-controllable potential ace.
“We have an opportunity to get better next year,” Cole said, “and after having an opportunity to decompress, we'll all be chomping at the bit to do that.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Burnett’s stellar start paves way for Pirates’ victory over Diamondbacks
- Pirates’ Cole reinforces status as emerging ace
- Biertempfel: Observations from a day at the ballpark
- Gameday: Pirates at Diamondbacks, April 26, 2015
- Bradenton outfielder Barnes burdened by his body
- Sawchik: Young Cubs could threaten for foreseeable future
- Pirates notebook: Miffed Melancon finds success, will stick with his routine
- Cole shuts down Diamondbacks as Pirates open road trip with victory
- Pirates notebook: McCutchen unfazed by return to Arizona
- Gameday: Pirates at Diamondbacks, April 25, 2015
- Pirates look to continue success in cross-country trips