CLARK BUILDING – I was in Natrona Heights last night for a Clint Hurdle speaking/fundraising event at the local VFW. Hurdle captivated the room for 40 minutes and then took several questions from the audience, which numbered 150 or so, an audience that had greeted Hurdle with a standing ovation. Some grown men wore Hurdle T-shirts. Hurdle lingered for 30 minutes signing autographs and posing for pictures. He’s become a popular man in town. If this whole managing thing doesn’t work out maybe he could run for mayor of Hampton Township.
Hurdle was asked again about the first base situation. He said Neal Huntington is still working on it, but added Andrew Lambo deserves a look … somewhere. No change there. Hurdle was again asked about A.J. Burnett. Somewhat interestingly he noted he had not spoken with Burnett since November. He said he felt he was getting in the way.
But what interested me was the response to a question about why the Pirates handled Gerrit Cole’s workload different than the Nationals handled Stephen Strasburg in 2012.
“With the Cole situation there was some common fabric some with Strasburg and there are some things that weren’t the same,” Hurdle said. “We had a game-plan from the start of spring training on what we envisioned Plan A would with Gerrit Cole be and would Plan B would be. He’s the only (starting) pitcher last year who from the time he picked the ball up in spring training pitched through the end of the year. A.J. was on the DL. (Francisco) Liriano started late. (Charlie) Morton started late. (Jeff) Locke missed time. The man’s physical toughness, his durability, his strength. his delivery… we felt good about the way challenged him. We did an analysis on the number pitches that could be thrown. We monitored strength and conditioning workouts in between starts and his strength never decreased.”
Two things to take away from the answer: a lot more goes into determining workloads than arbitrary innings limits … and Cole is an unusually strong human.
It’s interesting to me that a 22-year-old rookie showed the most durability among all Pirates starters last season and threw 196 1/3 innings in 2013, when including his spring training and postseason work. And he threw a lot of high-stakes innings after Sept. 1, beginning with an outing where he out-dueled Yu Darvish for Win No. 82 on Sept. 9 in Texas.
He threw about 150 innings in 2012 when factoring in instructional league work.
If you didn’t already realize this Cole is a rare dude. He was still hitting 99.6 mph on the gun with his fastball in Game 5 of NLDS. In one game at Anaheim in June he threw eight pitches of 100 mph or faster. Major League starters had combined for one pitch reaching 100 mph (by Matt Harvey) until that moment in 2013. Similar to Justin Verlander, he seemed to get stronger the deeper he went into starts, the deeper he went into the season.
This is what Triple-A pitching coach Tom Filer told back in June: “When we tell (Cole) that’s enough at 100 pitches. He’s like what? I feel great. He’s going to be a workhorse.”
When it comes to young arms we love the radar gun readings and we love the break of a plus offspeed pitch. But perhaps the most amazing part of Cole’s rookie campaign was his strength and durability. What he did in 2013 isn’t normal and the volume of quality innings he can log in 2014 and beyond should excite BUCN.