WASHINGTON — The Cole Train has found a way to Union Station. Pirates’ ace Gerrit Cole will come off the disabled list to make his first start since June 10 against the Nationals Saturday night.
Cole suffered a right triceps strain after throwing just two innings in his last appearance, and the injury caused him to miss nearly five weeks of pitching. Back at it for the second half, Cole is ready to get back out on the mound.
“I’m excited to be able to compete and hopefully put ourselves in good position to win a ballgame,” Cole said Friday in Washington. “I’m just excited to not sit on the sidelines all the time. I still don’t get to play every day, but at least every five days. I’m excited to be back and compete.”
The Pirates haven’t revealed a specific plan for limiting Cole’s outing, but he isn’t expecting a long day of work.
“I’m sure they’ll kind of take it inning-by-inning and see how the game is unfolding,” Cole said. “I’m sure I’m not going to throw 130 pitches.”
“We’ll keep an eye on him,” Hurdle said. “I think we’ll be able to gauge just by watching him pitch. He threw all his pitches. He maintained his velocity when he was down there. He’s excited to go out there and compete.”
Cole’s rehab took him back to Triple-A Indianapolis, where he played in parts of three seasons on his way through the Pirates’ system.
“There’s a lot of familiar faces there,” he said. “It’s a really fun city with a lot of good food. It’s nice to see the guys grinding it out down there. Hopefully, they’ll be in play or in position to come up and help us out later in the year if not already.”
To make room for Cole, the Pirates optioned first baseman Josh Bell to Indianapolis. Bell had a perfect 1.000 OBP with a home run, a single and two walks in four plate appearances in the majors, all of which came as a pinch hitter.
Hurdle said that Bell is still working on things defensively, but nothing specific. The Pirates would just like to see him get a volume of innings at first base.
“On-field experience is the best teacher for him, and then he doesn’t get those reps that you’re looking for, to try and recreate them,” Hurdle said.
Bell said Friday night that his time with the club had shown him exactly what he’ll be working for when he goes back to Indianapolis.
Gregory Polanco will not play Saturday and is likely to miss Sunday’s game, as well. With an off day on Monday, the Pirates are going to give Polanco a few more days to see if his left hamstring can get back in game shape.
“We have a unique opportunity really unlike any other in the time that I’ve been here,” Hurdle said. “[We’re] doing every that we can to ensure that we get him to a good place when we put him back on the field, the best place we think we can without [sending him to the DL]. … We’re all optimistic after the workout yesterday and how he feels today that we’re headed in the right direction.”
If Polanco can’t play by Tuesday, the Pirates will put him on the disabled list. They considered doing so instead of sending Bell down Saturday, but will hold out for a little longer in the hopes of getting Polanco back quickly.
“We like having Polanco on the field,” Hurdle said. “To possibly work out a situation where he could return four of five days before a two-week DL, I think that’s a positive.”
Hurdle said he had a chance to watch Ryan Vogelsong’s latest rehab start with Altoona, and the Pirates are going to keep stretching him out as a starter.
“We’re keeping everything open,” Hurdle said. “He needed to pitch based on the time that he was down. He was best served, we felt, to get him on the mound for a volume of work. … We haven’t really decided.”
Vogelsong is with the team in Washington, where he will throw a side session with Ray Searage, and then is expected to make another rehab start in the middle of the week. Hurdle was also impressed with Vogelsong’s moxie in the batter’s box in Altoona, when he was buzzed with an inside pitch attempting a bunt.
— Sean McCool (@NotSoMcCool) July 15, 2016
“It was one of the better tests that’s hard to recreate,” Hurdle said. “He got the bunt down, by the way. It was a very athletic play. He had to cover home, another athletic play that he had to make that doesn’t always happen in games when you go down in rehab. I thought it was a very strong test of a couple of areas that he needed to get re-acquainted with.”
John Jaso took grounders at third base in batting practice while Hurdle looked on. He did not play Friday, but is back in his customary leadoff spot Saturday. Hurdle joked that Jaso was only over there “so that I have to answer questions about it.”
John Jaso taking grounders at third while Clint Hurdle looks on. pic.twitter.com/fmm4KNtmPM
— Alan Saunders (@ASaunders_PGH) July 16, 2016
Jaso has played catcher, left field, right field and first base in his big-league career, but he has never played a game at third.