All three times this year Gerrit Cole has pitched on at least a week of rest, he has gotten a quality start. In his nine other starts, he has only four quality starts.
Small sample size, certainly. We do not yet know if Cole is a better pitcher given more rest, and he will even tell you his breaking ball did not feel as sharp Friday night against the Diamondbacks (6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K) when he took the mound after a full week off.
“Threw some ones where I probably wasn’t totally… trusting that it was gonna break,” Cole said. “It’s just something I gotta attack, because it’s gonna happen again here soon. And I’ll learn from it and keep moving.”
What’s “gonna happen” is the Pirates will find opportunities to have Cole make starts on more than a typical four-day rest. The front office continues to use words like “monitoring innings,” and the rookie has already pitched eight more innings than he did all of last year, but the actions speak louder. Manager Clint Hurdle’s most recent action was to use the off-day last Monday to keep every other starting pitcher on regular rest and give Cole three extra days. And they will almost certainly go back to the strategy again.
“There will be opportunities moving forward, another day off we might be able to capitalize on it,” Hurdle said.
Upcoming Rotation and Cole’s Plan
This the current rotation plan heading into the team’s next off-day on August 26:
- Saturday vs. Arizona: Jeff Locke
- Sunday vs. Arizona: Charlie Morton
- Monday at San Diego: Francisco Liriano
- Tuesday at SD: A.J. Burnett
- Wednesday at SD: Cole
- Thursday at San Francisco: Locke
- Friday at SF: Morton
- Saturday: Liriano
- Sunday: Burnett
That would set up naturally for either Cole to get one extra day of rest then start Tuesday or Locke to stay on regular rest and make the start. However, they have to be mindful of Locke’s arm as well in the first full MLB season for the left-hander. Locke threw 176 innings last year but is on pace to pitch 190 in this year’s regular season.
“You’re affecting four other people when you try to dynamically start a guy every seven or eight days and you continually punch in a spot starter,” Hurdle said.
General manager Neal Huntington said earlier this month he believes Cole will be available in October, but there is a “red line” for every pitcher in terms of innings and number of pitches thrown.
As for Cole, who adjusted his preparation for Friday’s start by throwing two side sessions, he will adapt to pitching on longer rest or possibly as a reliever.
“I felt pretty good going out there [Friday night],” Cole said. “I don’t think we’ll make any adjustments next time if we’re in a situation like this. At the same time, we’ll see how I feel in three weeks if this happens again.”