Whatever you want to call it, today is the day many Pirates fans have looked to for two years — the day Gerrit Cole makes his big league debut.
Cole, of course, was the No. 1 overall selection in 2011 out of UCLA and thanks to a combination of stuff and need will take the mound for Pittsburgh this evening to face the visiting San Francisco Giants. It will be the first time a pitcher taken with top selection in the draft has made a Major League debut since Stephen Strasburg struck out 14 for Washington nearly three years ago to the day.
Expectations for Cole are high, but most would consider anything close to they type of debut Strasburg had a major success but even if he does not dominate the Giants a solid start leading to a win for the Pirates are is what Pirates manager Clint Hurdle is hoping for.
“We chatted earlier today. He gets to blaze his own trail,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “I share with all the players when they get here to respect everything and fear nothing. First thoughts count for a lot.”
Hurdle said that Cole, along with the rest of the starting rotation, will not be on a strict pitch count the rest of the season and that the goal is to get through seven innings, see where they are at both physically and mentally and then go from there.
Where Cole is at entering Tuesday’s game has been a good place. He pitched well in his final two appearances at Triple-A Indianapolis, but the International League is one thing and the defending World Series champions are another.
“Once the first pitch or two gets out of the way I think he’ll get to the place he needs to get but he might get there before then,” Hurdle said. “I’m just looking forward to watching him.”
Several of the Pirates veterans spoke about Cole and said that while it is a memorable moment for any player to make his big league debut guys have to settle down and take care of the job at hand.
“When you get through the first inning you don’t feel your legs,” Pirates closer Jason Grilli said. “There’s a lot going on. You finally get to the point where you get to experience and live out your dream for the first time. There’s only one time that you get to do that and for Cole tonight it’s going to be special. We’re excited. We know what he’s capable of doing and he’s arrived. Hopefully it’s a good show for everybody involved tonight.”
The confidence in Cole extends beyond his fellow pitchers. Andrew McCutchen said what the team saw from him during Spring Training was good and they expect that to carry over to the big leagues.
“We know what he’s capable of doing,” McCutchen said. “We saw what he did all of Spring Training this year. Just seeing that alone, there’s nothing else that needs to be said. He definitely has the stuff to get people out.”
Wandy Rodriguez officially went on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday after complications during a catch session on Sunday in Chicago. Hurdle said Charlie Morton is “Plan A” to make his 2013 debut on Thursday.
James Santelli has more from Morton about what to expect from his Thursday start.
James McDonald will make a rehabilitation start for Indianapolis tonight. Hurdle said the goal is get McDonald to 90 pitches.