Pirates Notebook: 9 Best Perspectives on Cole’s Debut

Gerrit Cole

Players and managers alike were impressed by the velocity and command on Cole’s fastball. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

We all watched Gerrit Cole impress in his Major League debut Tuesday night. I wrote about it. You (hopefully) read it, and now it’s on to the next one.

But before it is on to the next one, I wanted to compile the best insight about Cole becoming a part of the Pirates’ rotation. Enjoy —

Bruce Bochy, San Francisco Giants Manager:

“He pitched well. He pitched real well and we knew what a good arm he has and he showed it tonight… He had good command [of his fastball]. he located pretty good and threw some good offspeed pitches. He showed poise out there for his first outing.”

Russell Martin, Pirates Catcher:

“Today, he didn’t even really have to work too hard to get off the gameplan. It was just fastball, fastball, fastball, and every once in a while he would mix in a curveball. He didn’t even really show how good a pitcher he was, because he’s able to mix his pitches when he needs to and stuff, but today he didn’t have to do that.”

Travis SawchikPittsburgh Tribune-Review:

“Indianapolis pitching coach Tom Filer thinks Cole’s 86-90 mph changeup could be his best pitch if he can harness command of it. He thinks it could be a true strikeout pitch. He has stuff similar to Strasburg’s but he does not enter the majors with the command Strasburg possessed. Cole was very good Tuesday, but he is just scratching the surface of his pitching potential.”

Clint Hurdle, Pirates manager on Cole’s fastball:

“It’s not straight as a string. There’s finish to it. There was conviction. Plus there’s downhill plane. It’s downhill angle and it’s down in the zone, and that’s very hard to hit.”

John Sickels, MinorLeagueBall.com:

“When everything is right with Cole, he throws quality strikes with four pitches and looks like a number one starter. But everything isn’t always right. Despite the glowing reports, the whole is not always equal to the sum of the parts and Cole will have occasional outings where he gets lit up. His delivery is clean but lacks deception, and quality hitters sometimes take him apart if his location is off.”

Jon Paul Morosi, FOXSports.com:

For Pittsburgh to finish with its first winning record since… 1992, Cole needs to pitch his way into the company of Matt Harvey and Shelby Miller among the league’s top young starters — and do so very quickly. This wasn’t a charming, pitch-count-controlled start buffered by diminished expectations. Cole isn’t here to blossom on his own schedule, according to developmental timetables. Effective immediately, Cole is a vital part of the Pirates’ rotation.


Gerrit Cole Pirates

Gerrit Cole’s pitches were classified as sliders by MLB, but they were curveballs. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Marc Hulet, FanGraphs on Cole’s last minor league start:

Cole’s heavy fastball is so good he used it almost exclusively the first time through the lineup. He displayed a mature approach and clearly wasn’t worried about striking out batters… His slider, though, was inconsistent. The best breaking ball I saw in the game was a downward breaking curveball… What worried me was that both his slider and his changeup came in around 86 mph to 88 mph and I’d prefer to see more separation in velocity between the two offerings.

Howard Megdal, Sports On Earth (he also linked to us, which was nice):

Cole struck out just two hitters all night. And as the game wore on, the Giants started making better contact. How much of this was by design, from an organization that is famous for wanting its pitchers to pitch to contact, and how much was a product of a still-developing set of secondary pitches, we’ll only find out in the coming games of Cole’s career.

Tony Sanchez, Triple-A Indianapolis catcher, to ESPN 970’s David Todd:

“He gets fired up. He’s gonna look pissed off. He reminds me of A.J. Burnett. When A.J. pitches, A.J. looks pissed. He doesn’t look happy. He hates every hitter. And Gerrit’s similar to A.J., he’s gonna go out there and throw his 100 mph fastball, and then you’re gonna see him mix in a 90 mph changeup and it’s gonna have hitters out in front… One of the big reasons for his recent success is that change in velocity.”

Other Notes

  • After Francisco Liriano starts Wednesday night, the rotation will go as follows:

    • Thursday: RHP Charlie Morton
    • Friday: RHP A.J. Burnett (vs. Dodgers)
    • Saturday: LHP Jeff Locke (vs. Dodgers)
    • Sunday: RHP Gerrit Cole (vs. Dodgers)
  • Weather forecasts in Pittsburgh indicate a low chance of rain Wednesday night until 10 p.m. Both teams took batting practice outside, which would not happen if there was even the possibility of pre-game rain. If there is a delay, manager Clint Hurdle says his policy will be to end a pitcher’s evening if the delay goes an hour or more.
  • Cole’s breaking balls looked like sliders to Hurdle, but catcher Russell Martin insists they were curveballs. Martin spoke to Cole before his debut, and the pitcher said he felt confident in his curve.
  • RHP James McDonald (shoulder discomfort) threw 89 pitches over six innings Tuesday night for Triple-A Indianapolis, his fourth rehab start. Hurdle was encouraged by his sequences and improved control of baserunners, but said McDonald “wasn’t as sharp as he needs to be,” including issues with command. His fastball sat 89-93 mph, slider at 76-79 (which is low). Hurdle wants to see more separation in velocity among his breaking pitches and more first-pitch strikes.
  • Brandon Inge is starting in right field Wednesday night behind strikeout/flyball pitcher Francisco Liriano. Hurdle’s explanation: “We look at the flyball lanes, and where they’re it. There’s times not every statistical analysis situation you’re gonna put in the right compartment. Inge needs to play for me. He needs to get some at-bats against a left-handed pitcher.”
  • Giants bench coach Ron Wotus will manage San Francisco. Manager Bruce Bochy has been suspended one game after being ejected Tuesday night and will serve it immediately. RHP George Kontos was suspended three games for hitting the Pirates’ Andrew McCutchen. Since Kontos was sent down, he will have to serve his suspension (or appeal it) when he returns to the Major Leagues.
  • The Pirates will continue to use metal-detecting wands Wednesday night after stopping their use at game time Tuesday. The new policy created long lines for fans entering the ballpark. Karen Price has the story for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, including President Frank Coonelly’s statement.

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James Santelli

James covers the Pirates beat for Pirates Prospects. He is a Broadcast Journalism student at USC and has written for such outlets as NBCOlympics.com, Pittsburgh Magazine and the official websites of the Los Angeles Clippers and Pittsburgh Penguins. James previously covered the Pirates for Pittsburgh Sports Report. He also broadcasts play-by-play for the USC Trojans baseball team and was awarded the 2013 Chick Hearn Memorial Scholarship and Allan Malamud Scholarship. James dispenses puns at his Twitter account (@JamesSantelli) where he promises to write in first-person. Google

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  • westonian420

    Every report you read on Cole has him throwing a plus slider and an average curve ball that he doesn’t use much. Then he comes out in his first start and throws all curve balls and that’s what he’s more comfortable with? Does he have this “plus” slider or have reports been confusing it with his curve? I’m confused

    • http://www.facebook.com/david.donahue.100 whiteAngus

      A pitchers arsenal will not always be there for him. AJ sometimes doesn’t have great bite on the curve. Liriano occasionally loses command of his change. When JMac was on his curve was outstanding. Morton’s sinker has to be on for him to be ground chuck.
      Cole has a plus slider. Doesn’t mean it’s always gonna be there.

  • nikknice

    Hey Tim,
    I know there is a lot of skepticism on how much the late innings guys are pitching. However, I wanted to hear how you feel about Morris and Wilson. They were former starters and put up 100+ innings in a season. How much does it change from pitching every 5 days and putting up 5+ innings to pitching every other day and putting up 5+ innings in a week. Is there a difference really? National media doesn’t seem to acknowledge this.

  • michaelbro8

    one problem with Cole: if the Bucs stay in the playoff hunt, towards the end of the season Cole is likely going to push the limit on innings pitched (like Strasburg last year).

    • smurph

      Maybe not. He pitched 132 innings last season. He has only pitched a total of 74 innings this year with the season 40% over. I am glad they limited his pitch count at Indy early in the year. 150-165 innings would be very reasonable for this 6’4″ 240 pound man.

      • michaelbro8

        I hope you’re right, but don’t forget the wild card, NLCS, and World Series games he’ll have to pitch !

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