BRADENTON, Fl. – Gerrit Cole made his first start of Spring Training today, throwing two innings and giving up two runs on wind-aided homers. The main focus here was getting Cole his innings, and most importantly, having him healthy. In fact, the latter was the only thing Neal Huntington was looking for when he met with the media before the game.
“Health,” Huntington said on what he wants to see. “First and foremost, just see if he can keep his adrenalin in check. Which, he’s such a competitive man. He’s driven to be elite. To remind him that it is a Spring Training game, that he’s going out there to condition as much as anything else. To get the feel of his delivery as much as anything else, and continue to take the steps in the right direction.”
After the game, Cole said that he felt good, and that he’s on a normal schedule now.
“It was pretty good,” Cole said of the outing. “Just trying to get out there, get a feel for the mound, get a feel for competing again, get a feel for the speed of the game. We definitely accomplished those things.”
Cole had his own personal catcher as well, with Chris Stewart behind the plate for two innings, then yielding to Reese McGuire in the third. This isn’t a new pairing, as Cole pitched to Stewart often in 2015, and has a good relationship throwing to him.
“He made a couple comments about some fastballs,” Cole said on the feedback he got today. “It’s always good to have somebody back there that is familiar with your stuff. His feedback is always appreciated.”
The plan for Cole going forward is a regular schedule. If he keeps a five-day schedule and keeps adding an inning each time out, he’d reach six innings and 100 pitches on April 2nd, which is the day the Pirates play Indianapolis. That could put him in line to make his season debut during the second series of the year against the Reds. But for now, it’s just good to see him making his Spring Training debut.
“I was really thrilled with him being out on the mound,” Clint Hurdle said. “He threw all his pitches, so it was a good day. Very good day.”
**Over at Pirate City, Jon Niese (4.0 IP/65 pitches) and Neftali Feliz (2.0 IP/33 pitches) pitched today. With games starting up this week, you can expect more MLB pitchers making their way over to minor league camp to get some innings this week.
**Harold Ramirez will leave for the World Baseball Classic qualifiers tomorrow, along with his teammate from Colombia, Tito Polo. Dario Agrazal will be pitching for Panama, on a three inning, 50 pitch count limit.
**Josh Harrison had two doubles in today’s game, and both were on pure hustle. The most impressive one was the second, on a comebacker to the mound that rolled past the shortstop into center field. Harrison turned on the guns rounding first and got to second easily, getting a double on essentially a ground ball up the middle.
“Harrison does things you see for the first time quite often,” Hurdle said. “I actually thought the pitcher had a play. And then the pitcher doesn’t have a play, and he’s dusting off at second base. That’s the kind of game he plays. A backyard ballplayer. He’s just out there playing street ball. Whenever he takes the field, he’s trying to make something happen.”
**Cole Figueroa was at shortstop today, and showed off a nice glove with a few impressive plays. There have been a few questions whether the Pirates would need a backup shortstop like Pedro Florimon if they had Sean Rodriguez and Figueroa as their other infielders on the roster. Figueroa’s performance today might have eased some concerns about whether he can be the backup.
“He’s here. He’s playing short,” Hurdle said of whether Figueroa could be the backup at the spot. “That’s why we want to watch him, and we’re going to give him every opportunity to show that throughout Spring Training.”