Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Cole Hopes Adversity of 2016 Fuels a Season of Redemption

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Cole Hopes Adversity of 2016 Fuels a Season of Redemption

Article excerpt

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The fastball hummed over the inner half of the plate and thumped the pocket of the catcher's mitt. Francisco Cervelli whooped and returned the baseball to right-hander Gerrit Cole. Pitching coach Ray Searage stood behind the pitcher's mound and nodded.

Cole's first bullpen session of spring training was in the books, and it was absolutely typical. That's exactly what Cole and the Pirates anticipated. Cole was plagued by injuries in 2016, starting with a case of rib inflammation that stalled

his throwing schedule even before spring camp. There was a triceps strain in June, and elbow inflammation that eventually shut him down in September.

After a happy and healthy offseason, Cole said, he reported to Pirate City "right on track." His winter included all the usual activities. He resumed his regular throwing program. He worked out near home in Los Angeles. He rekindled his passion for the soaring UCLA men's basketball team.

"Same old stuff," Cole said.

Oh yes -- Cole also got married in November. His wife, Amy, is the younger sister of San Francisco Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford. The Coles honeymooned in the Caribbean.

Coming off a season that fizzled before summer set in, perhaps no player in Pirates camp is more eager for opening day than Cole. He made only 21 starts in 2016, pitching a career-low 116 innings, and posted a 3.88 ERA -- 2.77 before the triceps injury, and 5.48 afterward. He battled his mechanics, slipped out of sync and watched his season spiral south.

Any lessons learned?

"There's a lot of things out of your control," Cole said. "Obviously it was an undesirable situation. Where we are now, it's a good spot. I've obviously learned a lot, a lot of mental toughness, learned how to deal with some adversity. Hopefully I'm better for it."

General manager Neal Huntington described the starting rotation as one that has "more upside" than last year's rotation, but also "more uncertainty." The youngsters arrived last season, headlined by right-handers Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow and Chad Kuhl. There is another wave still surging.

But with inexperience comes uncertainty. …

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