The Pirates are 3-0 when Gerrit Cole (3-0, 3.44 ERA) starts and Cole had his most impressive outing last night vs the Anaheim Angels (a 5-2 Pirates win) due to him mixing in his secondary pitches. In his first two starts, Cole threw 130 fastballs out of 161 pitches, but last night he had his change up going, touching 93, 94 mph and he was even mixing in his slider some with effectiveness. Cole would go 6.1 innings, allowing 4 hits, 2 earned runs, while striking out 5 and walking just 1 batter in the Pirates 5-2 win over the Angels. In three starts, Cole has walked just one batter.
Cole had that wow factor at times last night throwing a 101 mph fastball to Alberto Callaspo and he’s been everything the Pirates could have hoped for through the first three starts of his MLB career. Hitters are going to adjust to Cole but he has the look of possibly being that true difference maker down the stretch that the Pirates have lacked in previous seasons.
With the Pirates looking like a serious playoff contender and the rotation about to get healthy, the question remains if Cole stays in the rotation. When your looking at competing for this season and staying in the race, It’s a no brainer that he shouldn’t see the minors again but with the Pirates you can’t rule out Cole going down for a period of time so Cole can avoid Super-Two status after the 2015 season.
It would be a PR nightmare for the Pirates but the rumblings are out there.
How will the Pirates rotation shape up in the coming weeks as A.J. Burnett (4-6, 3.12 ERA) and Wandy Rodriguez (6-4, 3.59 ERA) rejoin the rotation?
Jeff Locke (6-1, 2.01 ERA) a strong All-Star candidate has made himself a lock to stay in the rotation barring a James McDonald 2012 type of collapse in the second half. Locke is first in the NL in ERA (2.01 ERA), 3rd in winning percentage (.857) and ranks in the top-10 in the NL in opponents batting average (.203), and slugging percentage (.310).
Three of the five rotation spots clearly go to Burnett, Rodriguez and Locke, and Pirate officials contend Francisco Liriano (5-3, 2.44 ERA) won’t be coming out of the rotation.
James McDonald’s rehab stint is about over but the Pirates no longer see him as a viable option for the rotation when this group is healthy. The Pirates are actively looking to trade McDonald and will consider designating him for assignment.
Jeanmar Gomez (2-0, 3.07 ERA) will go back to the bullpen where he is better suited, when the Pirates don’t need a spot starter.
When this group is healthy, the immediate decision for management is going to come down to Cole or Charlie Morton (1-1, 1.74 ERA).