First Pitch: Limiting Gerrit Cole’s Innings Down the Stretch

Gerrit Cole has already reached his 2012 innings totals. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Gerrit Cole has already reached his 2012 innings totals. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

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?

**Prospect Watch: Rocky Start to Taillon’s Triple-A Career; Meadows and Bell Homer.

**Howard’s Homer, Cunningham’s Clutch Hitting Lead Curve Over The Senators.

**Clay Holmes Throws Six Shutout Innings, Josh Bell Homers.

**DSL Prospect Watch: Pirates Drop Nationals, Rain Shortens Both Games.

**Minor League Schedule: Dodson Returns To Bradenton.

Tim Williams

Author: Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with AccuScore.com, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • emjayinTN

    Gerrit Cole should be limited to 160 – 170 IP, which could mean 6 – 5/6 inning starts, which should take him well into September, especially if we have an opportunity to skip him in the Rotation due to days off. He and Burnett have the most innings on their arms at 134; Locke has 131. Because their season starts were delayed due to injury, Liriano only has 105 IP, and Charlie Morton 56 IP. Jeanmar Gomez has 60 IP. Wandy Rodriguez has only thrown 63 innings, and if the Pirates want to limit Gerrit Cole, they need to get some help from Morton, Gomez, Rodriguez, and/or Brandon Cumpton. Cumpton has 23 IP for the Pirates, but is probably at around 120 IP between AAA and Pittsburgh. He is more of an innings-eater and pitched 152 innings last year at AA – should be looking to stretch him out to 175.

    With the benefit of hindsight, did the shutdown help Strasburg? The Pirates have to be thinking about a Rotation of Cole, Locke, Liriano, Rodriguez, Taillon/Morton, and who knows about Burnett as early as 2014. We just have to remember who we are and where we came from.

    • emjayinTN

      Sorry, I forgot to add about 35 innings for Morton in the minors on his rehab assignment, and also innings for Liriano working his way back.

  • https://www.facebook.com/roger.huffmanii Roger Huffman II

    Innings limits is such a joke. I just don’t get the reasoning behind it. Pitchers have had more elbow surgeries in the last decade since innings limits have become universal in baseball. That’s not a coincidence . Babying these guys is hysterical. I get easing guys back after injuries. But coddling guys who have had no problems is ridiculous. It has been said that Mark Prior had perfect mechanics and that it was not possible for him to have arm issues. He had arm issues not bc of “too many innings” or “overuse.” He had arm injuries for one simple fact that gets overlooked by teams and the media. It’s the same reason that a lot of guys get hurt while other guys never get hurt. The reason is genetics. That’s all. Nolan Ryan threw forever. Great genetics. I’m so sick of pitchers being babied when the workload isn’t what is the source of injuries. It’s the individual’s genetics/bodies.

    • http://www.piratesprospects.com Tim Williams

      The Pirates have been accused of babying their pitchers, but their pitchers also have very few arm injuries. Under the old groups, every single pitcher saw some kind of injury. If there was a top prospect, it was only a matter of time before he had Tommy John surgery.

      There have been a few guys who have been injured and required surgery, but the list is small. Kyle McPherson and Ryan Beckman are the two names that stand out among the guys developed by this group. You could add Morton in there as well, since he was with the team long enough. Phil Irwin has been hurt this year, but hasn’t required a major surgery. As far as major surgeries, you could probably count them on one hand.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lee.young.161 Lee Young

    Watching Cole pitch has caused me to up my Wandy prayers ten-fold.

    I would LOVE to see GC get shut down….the sooner the better. In fact, he may be better suited in the pen. But then, he struggles in the first inning, so maybe not?

    Foo

  • CalipariFan506

    Wandy hasn’t thrown a curve yet. That was when he felt pain initially. I still think its 25/75 we see him again 2013.