Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Early Snub Now a Distant Memory

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Early Snub Now a Distant Memory

Article excerpt

ST. LOUIS -- When Pirates coaches told Gerrit Cole in spring training he was not going to make the team's opening-day roster, the right-handed pitcher didn't thank the club for the opportunity or quietly pack his things and head to minor league camp.

He fumed.

Cole stewed at his locker at Mc-Kechnie Field in Bradenton, Fla., diplomatically telling reporters he was irked by the team's decision to send him back to the minor leagues.

Now, the pitcher who was too young, too raw, too emotional to make the club on opening day will have it on his right arm to keep the storybook season alive. And the Pirates couldn't be happier.

"We're not going to hit 1.000 on everybody as far as the due date," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We don't hit 1.000 on everybody with the expiration date."

But in Cole, it appears a June promotion to the major leagues has worked out perfectly for both parties. Even if it wasn't entirely intentional.

While many, Cole included, believed the team's decision to send him back to the minor leagues was purely financial -- the Pirates could delay his arbitration and free agency by keeping him there -- many in the front office were convinced he was not ready for major league action at the start of the season.

He entered the season with just 132 innings pitched in the minor leagues, well below the 200-inning plateau the Pirates hope for pitching prospects. His strikeout numbers were low and his secondary pitches were underdeveloped. And underneath those tangible statistics was a fiery, 22-year-old pitcher who did little to hide his occasional frustrations on the mound.

Ideally, the Pirates front office wanted to wait well past June to introduce Cole, now 23, to the majors. Injuries to James McDonald and Wandy Rodriguez -- and a delay in Charlie Morton's rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery -- left a hole in the rotation two months into the season.

So the team turned to Cole for an open-ended invitation to the starting rotation.

"I didn't know how long it was going to be," Cole said. "I did understand the situation. ... I didn't try to think about it too much. Now all of a sudden it felt like we were in September, and all of a sudden I had gotten a lot better. …

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