Gerrit Cole Makes His Spring Training Debut

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 adrenalinĀ 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.”

Other Notes

**Over at Pirate City, Jon NieseĀ (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.”

  • Need to get Joyce 30-40 ABs in the rest of ST – so far he does not look like a good bench/4th OF option – but way to small a sample at this point.

  • Anyone else buying into Jeff Locke yet?

    Stuff really seems to be ticking up so far. I’m in.

    • For the first half of the season, yes. Beyond that, we’ll have to see.

    • But are you a believer in the Locke Niese monster?

      • Take back everything I’ve said about Niese…worth every penny!

        • Well, Niese’s stats have been unimpressive so far. Looks like he isn’t keeping the ball down in the zone yet. But then AJ’s and Volquez’s Spring Training stats weren’t impressive either. He is a veteran guy, if he can round into shape and provide #4 performance I’ll be happy. Can Locke grow into #3 performance? Intriguing question. If ever, now is the time. But #4 performance is what I am hoping for, if better than that then great!

          • Agree with every bit of that.

            Locke may not be a “true” #3 with this potential improvement, but I think he can pitch like one for three turns of the lineup and turn it over to the pen.

    • NMR,

      I would imagine this is sarcasm? I haven’t watched enough spring training to know for sure though….

      • Nope, dead serious.

        I was skeptical about removing any deception from his delivery since his stuff generally is average to a hair below, but if the cleaner delivery is bringing his stuff up half a grade then I feel it’ll be worth the trade off.

        There’s a case to be made that Jeff Locke wasn’t actually a bad starter last year, and seeing his ability to strand runner return to normal in 2016 alone would lead to being a sub-4 ERA starter. If he can use the extra boost he seems to be showing this spring to push his K-rate to around 20% and return to normal with runners on base, you’re looking at a guy who’s close to a 3-win pitcher over 180 innings.

        Remove historical context and put the 2016 version of Jeff Locke next to the 2016 version of Jon Niese; I’m not sure anyone would be putting the latter in front of the former.

        • I’ll be totally happy if Niese and Locke are able to stay sub-4 ERA and Volgesong stays below 4.50. I’m being a little optimistic but I can totally see it happening.

  • No offense, but both of the homers he gave up were pounded. Calling them wind aided would be more appropriate if they were 5-10 feet out. They both cleared the fence by over 20 feet each

    • I think it’s still a good sign he only gave up 2 homers and no hits. It means he only made 2 pitches that were hit the whole outing (which in fair play was only 2 innings). But I think it shows that he’s on the right track for spring training.

      • one of the homers could have possibly not made it out, but McGehee’s was gone. You can watch the video of it on highlights, as soon as he hit it you knew it was gone, wind or no wind.

    • The wind was ridiculous yesterday. All you had to do was get one up in the air and it was gone.

      • I can’t argue with that statement, but those balls were crushed. Now if you want to talk about Marte’s being wind aided- i’ll agree with that

        • They only look like they were crushed because of the wind. When I was walking down the stairs, it was like being on the top deck of a cruise ship. This wasn’t wind that took a warning track shot and put it over the fence. It was wind that takes a routine fly ball and puts it on the boardwalk.

          It was the same thing in minor league camp the last two days. Any fly ball hit in the air went for a home run. The wind is crazy in Bradenton this time of year, especially when storms are rolling through the area, which happened the last two days (although they missed us).

          The wind that day got up to 33 MPH. Just think what that can do when a ball is hit in the air and it’s blowing straight out.

          • I meant watching the ball leave the bat from around center field- I can’t see wind make contact with the ball and I don’t think it affects how hard the ball is h it. You knew the moment they left they bat they were gone, especially Casey’s- I have seen enough games to know the difference. Do yourself a favor, watch the video highlight of Casey’s homer, just watching it hit the bat from center field, and tell me honestly if that look slike it would have been a routine fly ball.

            • I was at the game.

              • so was i, what is your point tim? Do what I ask and you’ll see my point

              • i’ve seen about 10,000 homers on TV, and you can tell about 80% of the time at least when a hitter hits the ball if it is gone or not. So taking the evidence of watching it off the bat in person and adding it to the TV evidence, I really don’t understand why you are arguing with me on this……other than you have nothing else to do right now since the argument is purposeless anyways

    • I thought he was working up in the zone a bit more than he normally does. That is probably the rust and will go away as the spring progresses – for him to be successful up he has to be close to 100 MPH and from what they were saying he was around 95/96 – the difference is enough that good fastball hitters can make you look bad – and they did.

  • I stand corrected! It looks like Cole could be a MLB SS for at least as a spot starter or late inning replacement

  • I’d be a lot happier about Cole F punching his ticket if that meant we didn’t have to keep useless SRod around.

    • He may the only bench player that can actually play OF (Possibly Stewart, Morse, Figueroa, SRod, and Rogers). If you removed SRod from that group, you would still need another infielder like Florimon.

      • You’d be better off DFA’ing Rodriguez and giving the job to Joyce. Morse and Rogers can both play outfield as well as Rodriguez, meaning none of them are good

    • Really? Who else is available for glove repair?

  • TurnerWardHitsTheWall
    March 13, 2016 8:20 pm

    Sounds like Cole F punched his ticket to Pittsburgh.

    • I do not think Cole is a better baseball player than Florimon- That being said, Cole does fit the Pirates idea of contact hitting as he strikes out only about 10% of his Ab’s. Florimon is better defensively, and has more speed, but strikes out about 30% of his AB’s. Having Cole make the team truthfully “should” spell the end of Rodriguez honestly. We should eat the 3million and just release him. We need the roster spot.

      • Good Lord, SRod was a completely unnecessary signing. Too much money spent entirely too early on the wrong guy.

        • any money spent on Srod is a waste- its a sunk cost, trade him for a low A-ball marginal prospect the first time a team has a middle infield injury

          • That might be asking too much. Hell, Charlie Morton only got us a low A-ball marginal prospect in return.

            • how about a case of IC light?

            • Can you see it now- Cerpico’s Cervesa’s- new micro brew, with the emblem as a fist crashing into a keg of beer on one side, and his greasy haired self portrait on the other side.