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Pirates take Cole with top pick in draft

| Tuesday, June 7, 2011

There were pitchers available with better numbers than Gerrit Cole, even on his UCLA team.

But the Pirates weren't concerned about what Cole did for the Bruins this season when they made him the first overall pick in the 2011 first-year player draft Monday night. They were focused more on what they believe Cole will do for them in the future.

"Scouting is about projection. It's about looking into the future and understanding what we believe a pitcher or player can be two, four, six, eight, 10 years from now," general manager Neal Huntington said. "The performance of this year goes into it, but we're looking at a big, strong, physical right-hander with quality stuff, quality competitiveness and adjustments we can help him with."

In a year in which there was no consensus top pick, the Pirates took the pitcher they believe has potential to be an ace in their rotation over others whose names came up in recent weeks and months.

That includes Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon, who battled ankle and shoulder injuries in the past year and fell to Washington with the sixth pick, and Virginia left-hander Danny Hultzen, considered one of the safer picks who went second overall to Seattle.

UCLA teammate Trevor Bauer, who outperformed Cole statistically this season, went third overall to Arizona.

Among the words Huntington used to describe Cole, a right-hander, were "intense," "intelligent" and "competitive."

The attributes that come up most often from those who have seen Cole include having three-plus pitches in his arsenal and an ability to throw 95 to 98 mph and maintain that velocity throughout the game. He allowed one run or fewer in seven of his 16 starts this season, carried a perfect game into the seventh inning in back-to-back games and allowed just 24 walks (two intentional) in 1141/3 innings this year.

The knocks against him are: He has been inconsistent, either throwing a three-hitter or being finished by the fifth inning; his slider needs work; and he needs to develop more variation in his off-speed pitches.

But the pervading belief — one shared by the Pirates, who had scouts at all of Cole's outings this year — is that a lot of his problems are mechanical and can be fixed.

"I'm not exactly sure what specific flaws that were mentioned — I don't recall anything like that — but obviously the goal is to get better every day," said Cole, who was 6-8 with a 3.31 ERA this year. "If there are flaws you need to correct, I have a knack for learning, and getting after it is definitely what I would like to do."

The next step will be signing Cole, an issue with every player that comes off the board in the first round, Huntington said. Ideally, with UCLA's season over, the Pirates would like to avoid a long layoff and find themselves having to build up Cole's arm again.

But the possibility exists that it will take until the August deadline to work out a deal with Cole, who is represented by Scott Boras, as it did with last year's first-round pick Jameson Taillon and second-round Stetson Allie.

"We believe at the end of the day we'll get a deal done because it's the right thing to do," Huntington said. "We think Gerrit wants to pitch, and we want him to pitch in our system."

Cole said he didn't know until the Pirates called him 30 minutes before the draft started that he was their pick.

"I actually didn't tell my family because I wanted to keep them in suspense a little bit," said Cole, who was selected in the first round in 2008 by the New York Yankees but chose to attend UCLA instead. "But it was obviously one of the most memorable phone calls I'll ever receive."

The book on Gerrit Cole

Position: Right-handed pitcher

School: UCLA

Height/weight: 6-foot-4/220 pounds

Stats: 6-8, 3.31 ERA, 114.1 innings pitched, 24 walks, 119 strikeouts, eight home runs allowed, 16 appearances, four complete games

Noteworthy: Played for Team USA in summer 2010. ... Rated No. 1 prospect on USA National Team by Baseball America for second consecutive year

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