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Cole: 'It's just another win' against Yankees

| Sunday, May 18, 2014, 12:17 p.m.
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The Pirates' Gerrit Cole delivers a pitch against the Yankees on Sunday, May 18, 2014, in New York.
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The Pirates' Starling Marte hits a sixth-inning, two-run home run against the Yankees in the second game of a doubleheader on Sunday, May 18, 2014, in New York.

NEW YORK — Gerrit Cole tried to approach his start against the Yankees on Sunday like it was any other outing in his young career.

Only this was different. Cole admitted that being in Yankee Stadium and being in New York as a major leaguer was a surreal experience.

Cole grew up as a Yankees fan in Southern California and made his first appearance in Yankee Stadium — and first start against the Yankees — in the second game of Sunday's doubleheader. The right-hander allowed three runs in six innings, and struck out eight in the Pirates' first regular season win in the Bronx.

“It was exciting,” Cole said of the experience. “It's just another win right now. ... The sentimental stuff doesn't mean anything. Getting out of here without getting swept is nice.”

In Phoenix, Ariz., at the 2001 World Series between the Yankees and Diamondbacks, a photographer captured an 11-year-old Cole in a Yankees cap and jersey holding a cardboard poster that read “Yankee Fan Today Tomorrow Forever.”

And Cole could have been a Yankee.

Cole was drafted by New York out of Orange Lutheran (Calif.) High in 2008 with the 28th overall pick. Surprising to the Yankees, and some in the baseball community, was Cole's decision to spurn his favorite team — and a seven-figure signing bonus — to attend UCLA. Cole's father has a successful consulting business, making financial considerations less of a factor.

It worked out for Cole, who was selected by the Pirates with the first overall pick in the 2011 draft and was signed to a club-record $8 million bonus.

Still, Cole said it was difficult to turn down the Yankees.

“We just decided to stick with the original plan,” Cole said.

Which was for Cole to have a college experience. Cole was particularly interested in having that experience at a school that possessed a major athletics program. Cole is a UCLA football and basketball fan.

Cole added he was surprised to be drafted that early in 2008. He and his family also thought he could become a better pitcher under UCLA coach John Savage.

Seeing Cole on the mound for another team has to be particularly difficult to stomach for the Yankees, who have struggled to draft and develop their own talent. Instead, they rely heavily on free agency to supplement their roster.

Yankees scouting director Damon Oppenheimer told the New York Times in 2011 that he had retained a relationship with Cole.

“At some point in his life, maybe he wants to become a Yankee again,” Oppenheimer told the Times. “I don't want to ruin that by having some bitter attitude toward the guy.”

Cole is under the Pirates' control through 2019.

Marte, Tabata exit Game 2

Starling Marte left the second game of Sunday's doubleheader with hamstring tightness after hitting a sixth-inning home run. Marte said he plans to play in the Pirates' next game Tuesday against Baltimore. Marte started all three games at Yankee Stadium after returning to the starting lineup from a strained back.

“The trainer said I can play in the next game,” Marte said. “When I finished running the bases in the dugout I felt (tightness).' ”

Outfielder Jose Tabata also left Sunday's second game with hamstring tightness. There was no immediate update on the severity of his injury.

Wednesday return for Martin?

Russell Martin (hamstring) told Fox Sports he was hoping to return to from the disabled list Wednesday, though Martin still must serve a one-game suspension for his role in the Easter brawl versus the Brewers. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Sunday such a timetable is premature.

“We're going to have a conversation with him (Sunday),” Hurdle said. “And then we'll hope to have another one with our general manager when he get back in town.”

Pepper games

Pirates closer Jason Grilli (oblique) will throw back-to-back simulated games Tuesday and Wednesday in Pittsburgh. If he passes those tests, he could be activated from the disabled list without a rehab outing. Grilli said he believes he is ready to face major league hitters. .... Brandon Cumpton was called up as the team's 26th man, a roster tool teams can use for doubleheaders, but did not pitch.

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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