There has been some speculation the last few days that the Pirates could skip Gerrit Cole’s next start, going with a four man rotation for the next week due to the off-day on Monday. The Pirates could skip Cole’s start and keep everyone else on five days rest. That would allow them to reduce Cole’s innings, which is going to be a concern down the stretch.
Neal Huntington has said that he believes Cole can finish the season, rather than being shut down like Stephen Strasburg. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Cole will finish the season as a starter.
Cole currently has 134 innings this year. That’s already two more than he had in the entire 2012 season in the minors, although he did have two innings in the Triple-A post-season, so he’s pretty much even.
The Pirates can skip him this coming week, but if there are no postponed games he would have to pitch the 17th and the 22nd. Also, with no delays, they could skip him again due to the off-day on the 26th, making his next start the 31st of August. From there, his next start wouldn’t have to be until the 11th of September, due to an off-day on September 5th. Of course one rain delay could throw all of this off, but the Pirates can basically cut three starts out from Cole’s innings over the next month, giving him four starts in that span.
We know that Wandy Rodriguez won’t be back on September 1st, but if he comes back in the middle of September, that could be the perfect opportunity to remove Cole from the rotation, switch him over to the bullpen, and drastically cut down on his innings. He’d get about 20-30 innings with his four starts over the next month, then maybe 5-10 more innings the rest of the season in the bullpen. That would put him about 40 innings at most over his 2012 totals, which isn’t bad when you consider that Cole also threw during instructs last year.
The move to limit Cole wouldn’t necessarily hurt the team. He’s got the potential to be a top of the rotation pitcher one day, but that’s not what he is right now. He’s also not going to be as effective down the stretch once his innings start adding up and he starts tiring. We could be seeing that already, as Cole has given up seven earned runs in 10.1 innings over his last two starts.
The best case scenario for the playoffs would be Cole moving to the bullpen where he can just throw 100 MPH with his plus slider, and Wandy Rodriguez returning as the number three starter in the playoff rotation. The best approach with Cole’s innings looks to be a move to the bullpen in September. That could happen when Rodriguez returns, although the Pirates have the pitching depth to allow for Cole to either move to the bullpen altogether, or piggyback with someone like Jeanmar Gomez or Brandon Cumpton and reduce his innings. It will be interesting to see how the Pirates approach this. For now, it appears they’re going the route of skipping him when they can. That hasn’t been officially announced, but it seems obvious that this is what will happen in the coming week.
Links and Notes
**Check out the newest episode of the Pirates Prospects Podcast: P3 Episode 16: What Would the Pirates’ Playoff Rotation Look Like?