Earlier today, Clint Hurdle announced that Gerrit Cole would pitch another bullpen session, and then would make a third rehab start. As Ryan Palencer wrote on Tuesday night, Cole’s second outing didn’t go so well. It wasn’t just the stat line, but the fact that he dropped his velocity in the later innings. Overall, there are a lot of red flags surrounding the right-hander, and it’s not looking good for a quick return.
The first red flag was a comment that Cole made, when he said he felt “pretty brutal” after his first rehab start. Normally when a pitcher is rehabbing, it’s all about extending his innings and getting him back to the point where he can pitch every five days. By the time he’s pitching, he should be free of the injury, both before and after his start. This isn’t always the case, but the guys who still feel bad after the outing don’t usually see a quick return to the majors. Hearing a pitcher saying he feels “pretty brutal” after a start is never a good thing, especially when that pitcher is coming off an injury that put him on the disabled list twice.
The second red flag was the velocity drop in the later innings. Cole said he wasn’t going full effort intentionally, although the timing of things was strange. If he was planning on going less than full effort from the start, then why did he throw 95-97 MPH in the early innings? And if it was a mid-game change, then why did he need to make that change in the middle of the game? It’s possible that this is nothing to be concerned with at all. But generally you don’t hear about a pitcher needing to go less than full effort, followed by that pitcher making a quick return to the majors.
It could be that there’s nothing to worry about at all with Cole. Maybe the brutal feeling after the first outing was only in that outing. Maybe the drop in velocity was intentional, and Cole has things ironed out after that start. But all of that seems to be wishful thinking, and hoping for the best.
It’s possible that Cole could feel better after his second outing, do well in his next rehab start, and return to the Pirates shortly after that. But right now I wouldn’t count on that happening. There are some serious warning signs here. You don’t see pitchers dropping their velocity and talking about feeling brutal, only to see them quickly return to the majors. That’s the kind of stuff that leads to “setbacks” and a return to the DL. Hopefully that’s not the case with Cole, but for now the Pirates can’t bank on a quick return from him.
Links and Notes
**Prospect Watch: Austin Meadows Homers Again; Allie and McGuire Also Homer. It’s good to see Meadows starting to heat up from a power standpoint. He has homered two days in a row, with a double on the third day. The power potential was always there, even if he started the year slow. He could make this final month very interesting if he keeps this up.
**Pirates Pitch Inside More Than Any Organization, But is it Wrong? John Dreker and I wrote this, looking at the Pirates’ approach throughout the system in regards to pitching inside. This comes after Tony LaRussa’s comments about how teams shouldn’t pitch inside, despite also commenting on how beneficial pitching inside can be. The quick summary of this article: the Pirates pitch inside, a lot, and all throughout the system. They do so because there are obvious benefits. And LaRussa comes across as someone who is blindly defending the organization he works for with some idiotic reasoning, rather than speaking out against the inexcusable act that the Diamondbacks committed by throwing at Andrew McCutchen.
**On a similar subject, why hasn’t MLB done anything about the Diamondbacks and their continued targeting of top players in retaliation for accidents? I felt like all of the talk the last few days would lead to something coming from MLB’s office. But they’ve been quiet, which means the Diamondbacks are basically allowed to throw at the best players in the game, and possibly injure those players, all without fear of any consequences.