First Pitch: And Now There’s No Doubt About Cole in the Playoffs

Now that Wandy Rodriguez is shut down, there's no question that Gerrit Cole belongs in the playoff rotation. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

Now that Wandy Rodriguez is shut down, there’s no question that Gerrit Cole belongs in the playoff rotation. (Photo Credit: David Hague)

The last two nights I’ve been writing about the playoff rotation and how that has been shaping up. The main focus in the comments was on Gerrit Cole. I didn’t have Cole as one of my top four starters for the playoffs, putting him behind Charlie Morton and a healthy Wandy Rodriguez. Last night I wrote about the difference between the Nationals shutting down Stephen Strasburg and the Pirates potentially shutting down Cole. The key difference is that the Pirates would have had better options with Rodriguez healthy.

One day later, it was Rodriguez who was shut down. The Pirates shut down the left-hander for the rest of the season after he continued to feel soreness in his elbow while throwing. I saw a lot of people react with little surprise to this, but I have to say that I was surprised. Maybe I missed something in the last week, since I’ve been spending a lot of time getting the 2014 Prospect Guide set up. But I’m not sure that I did. The timeline that I had was:

September 1st: We learned that Rodriguez was dealing with arthritis, along with pain and inflammation.

September 4th: Rodriguez threw his first bullpen session.

September 6th: Rodriguez made a three inning rehab start. After the start he was reported to be a little sore.

September 14th: Rodriguez threw a 67 pitch simulated game.

I was focused on the rehab more than the reports of soreness. I didn’t think it was serious if he kept pitching. Obviously that’s not the case, since he was shut down due to that soreness. Now the Pirates will prepare him for next season, and it’s almost certain that he will be back next season. Rodriguez has a $13 M player option, and he’s not likely to decline that with his injury.

As for this year, there definitely won’t be a healthy Wandy Rodriguez in the playoffs. That leaves Gerrit Cole with a clear rotation spot. As I said last night, the problem with Washington and Strasburg was that he was clearly a better option. After Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett, and Charlie Morton, Cole is clearly the best option. The only way the Pirates would have a different option is if Jeff Locke shows that his latest start wasn’t a fluke, and is something he can repeat from here on out. I feel that it’s more likely Cole will end up the best option over Locke and all of the other healthy starters.

Links and Notes

**The latest episode of the Pirates Prospects podcast is out, featuring special guest Rocco DeMaro: P3 Episode 19: Catching Up With Rocco DeMaro

**Byrd, Tabata Homer to Lead Bucs Over Cubs, 2-1

**Pirates Notebook: Morton Not as Electric against Left-handed Batters

**Wandy Rodriguez Shut Down the Rest of the Season

**James McDonald Elects Free Agency

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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