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Gerrit Cole will be pitching in October … maybe


PNC PARK – Gerrit Cole neared reaching an interesting threshold Friday night. He completed his 129th inning of the season, if you combine Triple-A and MLB innings.


Why does that matter? It matters because he threw 132 innings last season across three levels of professional baseball, 150 if you count his 18 innings in instructional league.


It matters because some teams have become very careful in handling young pitchers. The Nationals most famously shut down Stephen Strasburg last season after he reached 160 innings — while in the middle of pennant race. The Nationals assumed they’d be right back in postseason contention this season. Whoops.


“There was no science to it,” injury expert Will Carroll told me of the decision to shut down Strasburg.


Still, many teams are hesitant to increase a young pitcher’s innings count by 25 percent from year-to-year. If you use Cole’s 150 innings as his 2012 total, a 25 percent increase would place in him at 187.6 innings for 2013.


Pirates GM Neal Huntington tole me earlier this year he’d let me know if Cole has a workload limit if he ever “gets there.”


Huntington told MLB Network radio yesterday that Cole can pitch into October if his stuff “stays sharp” and that there’s no Strasburg-like innings cap in place.   And Strasburg was coming off Tommy John surgery, Cole is healthy. Cole doesn’t look fatigued. He hit 100 mph once and 99 mph three times by my count.


I asked Pirates manager Clint Hurdle if Cole faces a workload limit last night.


Said Hurdle: “We have a systematic plan in place to keep him pitching.”


What does Cole know about the plan?


“I don’t have any information on that. It’s something that I almost don’t want to know because I don’t want to think about….. I’m sure they are talking about something, I’d have to assume. It’s been brought quite a bit to my attention by the press. As far as I’m concerned I’m just preparing to start every fifth day.”


(Will Cole be pitching into late September? Indications are he will be)


But here’s why Cole will pitch into October IF the Pirates make it there: he’s been on the C.C. Sabathia Plan of 2001, not the Strasburg Plan of 2012.


Cole  reached 100 pitches – 102 – last night for just the first time of his career.


By August 2 of last season, Strasburg had thrown at least 100 pitches in eight games. The Nationals did manage his innings early in the season. The Pirates are with Cole.


Here is what I wrote back in late June before I sojourned to Europe:


But here’s the other reason why I believe Cole will be pitching in September: the Pirates are already being careful with Cole.


My guess is the Pirates are not on the Strasburg 2012 plan, they are on the C.C. Sabathia plan of 2001 or theChris Sale plan of 2012. They are shaving innings and pitches where they can so Cole can pitch in September.


Sabathia surprisingly broke camp with the Indians in 2001 as a 21-year-old and his workload was monitored. He made 33 starts but pitched just 180.1 innings, averaging 5.4 innings per start, and that was by design (And Huntington was with the Indians during that time period).


The Pirates have been similarly careful with Cole.


Cole is on pace to throw about 190 innings through the end of the regular season.  He will just cross that arbitrary 25 percent, threshold of danger.


And if he makes it to October, if the Pirates make it to October, it’s hard to believe they – like the Nationals chose – will shut down one of their top three or four arms. But unlike the Nationals, they’ve managed Cole’s arm as if they plan to play in October.


– TS



  1. Chuck H says:

    There’s nothing wrong with Cole. The problem is with the team he’s pitching for. Game after game, the Pirate starters are magnificent. They usually get little or no run support.
    Morton is the lone exception. He stinks!! Gerrit Cole is one of the best young pitchers to come up from the minors in quite awhile. That’s why the fans keep clamoring for some batting help from those same minors. They know we have better hitters at Indy than we have here in Pittsburgh. They don’t have to be great to be better than our pathetic bunch.
    Garret Jones hit into two DPs in successive ABs. That is unacceptable for a so called
    major league hitter. With our pitching staff, we don’t need all that many runs, but we do need a few to keep the pressure off the starters. We kept the Cardinal batters at bay for
    four out of five games, but look at them now. GO, BUCS!!!

  2. Chuckie Baby!
    I agree with you: that Morton stinks! And Cole, who has started 1 more game but has 2 more losses, stinks even more!
    And that Garrett Jones hit into 2 doubleplays last night: unacceptable! And that Pedro Alvarez, who hit into a doubleplay his first time up and struck out his second time up with men in scoring position stinks even more!! Unacceptable! Send them both down!!!!!
    Bring up Matt Hague! Bring up Andrew Lambo! Bring up Russ Canzler!! “We have better hitters at Indy than we have here in Pittsburgh.” You’re right, Chuckie Baby!
    GO BUCS!!!

  3. RobertoForever says:

    2 losses, and now some think that the offense should be replaced by minor leaguers.

    Ahem. The Bucs out scored the Cardinals 22-20. Yep. Replace ‘em all with minor leaguers.

    2 losses.

  4. Yokesoverez says:

    I like your sarcasm Mr Strangeglove, but some just don’t get it.

    And Chucky…your attitude is unacceptable. Your defense of Cole is the lack of Pirates offense, but you do not apply that same “logic” for Morton? If you recall, Morton is still on his way back from Tommy John. He provides much needed depth so that we can have 6-7 healthy starters when and if we need them. Somebody needs to pitch against the Cubs and Brewers you know!

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