Starting pitcher Cole coming of age as Pirates' staff ace
The Pirates casually call Gerrit Cole a bulldog with a “once-in-a-generation” arm, mentioning him in the same breath as a pair of two-time Cy Young Award winners.
No one in the organization, however, has ordained him the staff ace.
Even so, Cole is emerging into that role earlier than anyone expected from the right-hander who was the 2011 No. 1 overall pick.
Not that he's ready to embrace the label, either.
“I've taken a lot of big steps. I've pitched in the postseason. I've done some things, but I still don't even have a year up here,” said Cole, who has a 13-9 record in 26 career starts.
“So I guess when I think about where I was last May, as frustrated as I get at times, it's kind of fun to take a step back and see that I wasn't even close to doing anything I'm doing now. I've raised the bar, and you've got to keep striving for that.”
Entering Tuesday's game at NL Central leader Milwaukee, when Cole (3-2, 3.64 ERA) is scheduled to face Marco Estrada (2-1, 3.53), Cole is the Pirates' lone starter with a winning record in a rotation in which Francisco Liriano (0-3), Charlie Morton (0-5), Wandy Rodriguez (0-2) remain winless. Edinson Volquez is 1-3.
“There are some guys in this league when they get sent out there, you expect to win ... Gerrit certainly has that potential,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington said, noting that the Cardinals have it with Adam Wainwright and Dodgers with Clayton Kershaw.
“There's certainly the thought that with hard work, maturation and continued growth that Gerrit Cole can become one of those guys.”
After going 5-5 with a 3.95 ERA in his first 11 starts, Cole went 5-2 with a 2.28 ERA while pitching at least six innings in his final eight as a rookie. Despite being handed the ball for Game 5 of the NL Division Series at St. Louis, Cole said he viewed it only as “the hot guy gets the ball” and “wouldn't read into it any more than that.”
But Huntington said Cole's major league evolution as a rookie season was “like very few that I've ever seen before.”
Catcher Tony Sanchez said Cole was a “completely different guy” in the majors than the one he saw in Indianapolis.
“There's no question Gerrit has a very good arm, a once-in-a-generation type arm,” Sanchez said. “The biggest thing is not letting him know that. He's got to keep working. He's got to keep developing his stuff.”
Huntington said Cole, previously a fastball-slider pitcher, began to use a curveball, attacked the zone and got more swings and misses in the majors than he did at Triple-A.
Sanchez saw that Cole added depth to his curveball, sharpness to his slider, better command on his fastball to both sides of the plate and more deception to his curve.
“Each pitch got better,” Sanchez said. “You hear about guys making that jump from Triple-A to the big leagues and adjust and learn, it's almost like Gerrit was ready for the big leagues and got so much better when he got here. It was fascinating to see but it was also, ‘Gerrit, don't let it get to your head.' ”
The Pirates don't seem worried about that, given that Cole outdueled two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum in his major league debut and again in his most recent start Wednesday.
“He's mentally tough. Every time he gets the opportunity, he's going to do well,” center fielder Andrew McCutchen said. “He showed that at a very early point of his career, even his first start. ... We knew we had something special then.”
Something special, and someone the Pirates can soon start calling their ace.
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.
- Gameday: Pirates at Twins, July 28, 2015
- Pirates third baseman Ramirez’s last ride is about winning a ring
- Pirates notebook: No sign of improvement for RHP Sadler
- Cole collects MLB-best 14th win as Pirates take series against Nationals
- Pirates fall to Royals, lose for 5th time in 6 games
- Making splash at MLB trade deadline not always in buyers’ best interest
- Pirates notebook: Cervelli cherishes All-Star gift from teammate Burnett