The Times West Virginian

Sports

June 11, 2013

Pirates ready to welcome highly touted Cole

PITTSBURGH — Gerrit Cole sat on a stool in the cramped locker room at the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league complex in Bradenton, Fla., in late February and thought for a moment.

What, exactly, does the burly right-hander love so much about baseball?

Sure, the money is great. The potential fame too. Yet for the player considered one of the cornerstones of a franchise rebuilding itself from the ground up, the pull is much more primitive.

“I just like to just beat somebody,” Cole said. “Kick somebody’s (butt) really. That’s what I like doing and that’s what I’m good at.”

Time to prove it.

The 22-year-old will make his major league debut on Tuesday night when the Pirates host the San Francisco Giants, a moment a lifetime in the making for a player considered “can’t miss” since the first time he pulled on a glove as a kid growing up in Southern California.

To be honest, it’s a moment Cole hoped would happen a little sooner.

The top pick in the 2011 draft sprinted through Pittsburgh’s farm system, needing just 26 starts to move from Class A Bradenton to Triple-A Indianapolis last summer.

Yet when the Pirates decided to send him to minor league camp halfway through spring training for more seasoning, Cole’s frustration was palpable.  Sorry, but 6-foot-4, 240-pound pound guys who can regularly pump 99 mph fastballs by overmatched hitters are used to getting their way.

There would be no pouting, however. At least not outwardly. Cole bit his lip and went to work.

“As disappointed as he was, he jumped into this with both feet,” Indianapolis manager Dean Treanor said. “He asked a lot of questions.”

Not one of them was “when do I get out of here?” That doesn’t mean Cole didn’t think it, even as Pittsburgh’s best start in more than 20 years quelled the drumbeat for his arrival.

This is the same player, after all, who would constantly challenge his teammates to anything and everything while playing at Lutheran Orange High in Orange, Calif., a half-hour southeast of Los Angeles. Long toss. Batting practice. It didn’t matter. Cole’s drive to prove himself was relentless.

“Gerrit is one of the most competitive people I’ve ever coached,” said Mike Grahovac, who coached Cole at Lutheran Orange and is now the head coach at Concordia (Calif.) University. “He doesn’t like to lose at anything. That’s a good quality to have. You give him the baseball and he gets on the mound, he is a fiery guy. That’s what you want.”

And something the Pirates desperately need. While trade acquisitions A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez have given the Pirates a much-needed influx of competency and grit at the top of the rotation, they are entering the twilight of their careers.

Cole and 2010 second-overall pick Jameson Taillon are the future. Cole’s run will begin against the defending World Series champions and two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, who knows a thing or two about handling the role of “phenom.”

It’s a tag Cole has lived with his entire life, which gives Treanor confidence his project won’t be overcome by the stage when he walks onto the mound at PNC Park for the first time as a big-leaguer. Cole rarely looked intimidated during his time in Indianapolis this spring, going 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA and ending his run with 14 consecutive scoreless innings.

Despite his electric stuff, Cole had just 47 strikeouts in 68 innings, proof that he’s making the necessary step from thrower to pitcher.

“We tweaked the delivery a little bit and I think over the last 4-5 starts, I think you’re starting to see the guy everybody’s been looking for,” Treanor said.

One that could be a difference maker almost immediately for a team searching for its first playoff berth since 1992. Pittsburgh’s hot start means Cole won’t be called on to help salvage the season. And by waiting until mid-June, the Pirates kept Cole from becoming arbitration eligible until 2016, meaning there’s plenty of time for him to settle in and get comfortable.

The guys he’ll be throwing to are certainly anxious to get a longer look. Cole impressed Pittsburgh catcher Russell Martin during spring training and Martin hasn’t seen anything over the last couple months to dissuade him from thinking Cole is ready.

“He seems like he has a good head on his shoulders,” Martin said. “He has that type of mentality where it’s not going to be a long learning process for him. He is ready to go and compete right now.”

That’s all the Pirates ask, figuring the relaxed atmosphere in the clubhouse will take care of the rest. Despite the spotlight that follows him wherever he goes, Cole has shown an ability to fit in. When Indianapolis held a “kangaroo court” at the end of the season, the first player targeted was Cole.

His infraction? The $4 million bonus he earned for signing with the Pirates. The fine? A whopping 10 bucks.

“The max fine is $5 but we doubled it for him,” Treanor said. “It was classic. I don’t think he was expecting it, but he was laughing the whole time.”

That smile will likely be gone by the time Cole bounds out of the dugout on Tuesday night, replaced by the intensity that the Pirates hope will one day make him one of the premier starters in the game.

Just not yet. All they need now is some help.

“He’s not the savior for Pittsburgh,” Grahovac said. “He’s got to be part of the team. He’s got to help that team win.”

 

1
Text Only
Sports
  • Big ‘I’ golf coming to Pete Dye

    The Trusted Choice Big “I” National Championship will make its first trip to West Virginia when Pete Dye Golf Club hosts the 46th annual installment of the event Aug. 5-8.
    The Pete Dye course, ranked No. 45 on Golf Digest’s ranking of America’s 100 Greatest Courses and No. 9 on Golfweek’s ranking of Best Modern Courses, will host 160 of the best junior golfers from 40 states during the 72-hole stroke play event.

    July 30, 2014

  • Scott sees swift title contention for Lakers

    Byron Scott was a key component of the Los Angeles Lakers’ Showtime teams, a smooth shooting guard with sizzling competitive fire. He believes his purple-and-gold championship pedigree makes him the ideal coach to return the struggling 16-time champions to NBA contention.
    “This organization is all about championships, period,” Scott said Tuesday at his introductory news conference. “We don’t look at Western Conference finals, Western Conference championships. We look at (NBA) championships. And we know we have some work ahead of us, but I’m excited. ... I love challenges anyway, so this is going to be fun.”

    July 30, 2014

  • Opinion: People running NCAA may not be bumbling idiots

    Two down, one big one to go.
    And with it a growing realization that maybe the people running the NCAA aren’t the bumbling idiots everyone has been making them out to be.
    The NCAA’s agreement Tuesday to create a $70 million fund to diagnose concussions and brain injuries does more than just give some former and current athletes a bit of peace of mind — if no real money. It also extricates the organization from another serious threat to its existence, one that could have potentially bankrupted it if everyone who ever suffered a concussion playing college sports were somehow able to cash in.

    July 30, 2014

  • Steelers Camp Footbal_time2.jpg Bell looking for more decisive, productive season

    Le’Veon Bell kept watching the tape over and over, equal parts pleased and puzzled by what he saw.
    There were times during his rookie season when the Pittsburgh Steelers running back would place his hand on an offensive lineman’s back and wait patiently for the hole to open.
    Sometimes, one would appear. Sometimes it wouldn’t, mainly because whatever sliver of daylight existed had already been swallowed by darkness while Bell was still trying to read the blocks in front of him.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • smallwood-wendell(1)-2.jpg Charges against Smallwood dropped

     West Virginia University running back Wendell Smallwood took to Twitter mid-afternoon Tuesday to express his feelings after charges of witness intimidation against him were dropped by the state of Delaware.
    It took him only three words to say what was on his mind: “God is Good.” Smallwood is now free to return to West Virginia and rejoin his Mountaineer teammates when they open camp for the 2014 season Thursday.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • dungy0725 (1).jpg Rice, Dungy sideshows stain NFL

    The National Football League guards its reputation as aggressively as lineman are paid to protect a quarterback.
    So, as training camp opens around the country, how odd is it to see Commissioner Roger Goodell’s 32-team NFL empire battling bad headlines and stinging criticism from all quarters?
    Anyone want to talk to the new quarterback for his early assessment of playing with the best and biggest players in the land? That would be business as usual. Nothing has been routine about the early days of camp this season.

    July 30, 2014 2 Photos

  • Post 17 #7 Post 2 #12 mw.JPG DeVaul wraps up final season as Post 17’s leader

    If you were to ask players on Fairmont American Legion Post 17’s roster who they looked up to, you’d find a familiar pattern.
    Sure, you may get some Andrew McCutchens or some Derek Jeters as replies. But if you want to find out the real answer, just look into the dugout.

    July 30, 2014 1 Photo

  • Big ‘I’ golf coming to Pete Dye

    The Trusted Choice Big “I” National Championship will make its first trip to West Virginia when Pete Dye Golf Club hosts the 46th annual installment of the event Aug. 5-8.

    July 29, 2014

  • Charges against Smallwood dropped

    West Virginia University running back Wendell Smallwood took to Twitter mid-afternoon Tuesday to express his feelings after charges of witness intimidation against him were dropped by the state of Delaware.

    July 29, 2014

  • Return to Mountain State exciting for new sports writer

    When I packed my belongings out of my Morgantown apartment in May, fresh with a journalism degree from West Virginia University, I thought I had ended a chapter of my life and closed the book on my experience inside the great Mountain State forever.
    It wasn’t until I received a phone call back in my hometown of Canton, Ohio, from the Times West Virginian that the idea of a return to the area became a possibility. The opportunity to begin my professional career in an area that I’ve become comfortable with for the past several years was too good to pass by.

    July 29, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Sports
House Ads
Auto Racing Photos
Auto Racing Breaking News
Auto Racing Standings