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Pirates notebook: Cole's bullpen session goes well

| Friday, July 18, 2014, 6:36 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole fires up teammates in the dugout before a game against the Rockies on Friday, July 18, 2014, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole throws during the third inning against the Phillies Friday, July 4, 2014, at PNC Park.

While three of his teammates went to the All-Star Game and others returned to their respective homes during the break for a brief respite, Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole was at work in Pittsburgh.

Cole, who is rehabbing a lat strain, threw a successful bullpen session at PNC Park on Thursday and said the session went so well he threw extra pitches. Cole originally was scheduled to throw 25 pitches, but he made five extra throws.

A day after the throwing session, Cole (7-4, 3.78 ERA) reported no pain Friday and is ready for the next step. Cole has been on the disabled list twice since the beginning of June. He was sidelined with shoulder fatigue and now a strained lat, which is a muscle located in the mid to lower back.

“Ray (Searage) said it went very well. It was fastball-changeup,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “So after he settles down a day, we'll revisit and plan the next step.”

Attendance climbing

If you build a winning ballclub, fans will come to PNC Park.

The Pirates have enjoyed the third-greatest attendance gain in the majors from this point a year ago, according to an analysis by Forbes.com.

Through 49 home dates this year compared to last year, the Pirates' attendance is up 121,938, trailing only attendance surges by the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins.

The Pirates rank 17th in baseball in attendance, averaging 27,819 fans per game.

No platoon … yet

Hurdle said before the break that he was not considering turning third base into a platoon situation, despite Josh Harrison's emergence and Pedro Alvarez's career-long struggles against lefties. Harrison was not in the starting lineup Friday despite a .321 average against lefties this year. Alvarez started at third despite a .197 mark against lefties. Rockies left-handed starter Jorge De La Rosa has pitched more effectively against left-handed batters this season. Alvarez is 3 for 9 in his career against De La Rosa.

“I'm giving Josh another night off. I'm not sure he's had one yet,” said Hurdle of Harrison's busy All-Star experience. “With four days off, you hate to sit either one of the lefties — (Gregory) Polanco or Alvarez — for a significant amount of time.”

Hurdle believes Alvarez made strides against left-handed pitching last season, but Alvarez's .575 OPS against left-handers in 2014 is below his career mark (.600).

Lefties on parade

Because of the right-handed-heavy National League Central, the Pirates have not seen much left-handed pitching this season. They entered Friday with a 43-40 record against right-handed starters and a 6-6 mark vs. left-handers.

Beginning Friday, the Pirates will play four straight games against left-handed starters: De La Rosa (Friday), Brett Anderson (Saturday), Tyler Matzek (Sunday) and the Dodgers' Hyun-Jin Ryu (Monday).

“It will give our guys a chance to see some consistent left-handed pitching, which we haven't seen in two years,” Hurdle said.

He said it

Hurdle on his All-Star Game experience as an assistant coach for the National League in Minnesota: “I felt so blessed to be there for the initial ovation for (Derek) Jeter and then the walk-off ovation for Jeter as well. As I'm going through my mind, (Frank) Robinson, (Al) Kaline, (George) Brett, (Cal) Ripken, (Chipper) Jones, Jeter — this might be the end of the back-of-the-bubble-gum, one-team guy.”

Extra bases

Hurdle has been standing, not sitting, in recent weeks during news conferences because of hip pain. ... When Polanco, Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen hit 1-2-3 in the order, they're batting a combined .342 and the Pirates are 9-6.

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

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