By Rob Biertempfel
BRADENTON, Fla. — Guess which pitch Gerrit Cole is working on a lot this spring. Kudos if you said the changeup. Then again, it seems every pitcher in Pirates camp is either fine-tuning their touch on the pitch or trying a new grip or doing something else related to the changeup.
“It was the first secondary pitch I started tossing this offseason,” Cole said after tossing two scoreless innings yesterday. “I put a little extra emphasis on it. It’s coming along quite nicely. I located it where I needed it and I think I got (Manny) Machado to roll over on it, which is nice.”
With his injury problems last spring (which carried over into the season) Cole never got much of a chance to refine his changeup. “It’s my least-used secondary pitch. The movement is a good complement to my slider but it’s my least-used.”
He’s happy with how the changeup is progressing this spring, and expects to have enough confidence in it to use the pitch from day one. “You want to come out with as many bullets as you can in April. There’s not a lot of stress with that pitch so I got it going a couple of weeks early.”
>>> UPDATE 11:26 a.m. — Josh Harrison will play for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. “I’m looking forward to putting on the colors and playing with the rest of the guys,” Harrison said. Harrison will replace Matt Carpenter, who has a stiff back. The other second basemen on the roster are Ian Kinsler and Daniel Murphy.
>>> Andrew McCutchen had a heat wrap on his lower back this morning in the clubhouse. “A little tight when I woke up this morning,” Cutch told me, adding that he expects to be good to go for today’s televised game against the Red Sox. It’s his final game before leaving camp to join Team USA in the World Baseball Classic.
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>>> Saturday’s game: Red Sox at Pirates, 1:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. TV: MLB Network. Webcast: pirates.com
Red Sox (3-5): Brock Holt 6, Chris Young 7, Jackie Bradley Jr. 8, Pablo Sandoval 5, Blake Swihart 2, Allen Craig 3, Brian Bogusevic 9, Junior Lake DH, Mike Miller 4. RHP Hector Velazquez
Also pitching for Red Sox: RH Joe Kelly, RH Matt Barnes, RH Kyle Martin, LH Fernando Abad, RH Chandler Shepherd, RH Jamie Callahan, RH Ben Taylor
Pirates (6-2): Josh Harrison 4, Starling Marte 8, Andrew McCutchen 9, Gregory Polanco 7, Francisco Cervelli 2, David Freese DH, Jordy Mercer 6, Jose Osuna 3 Eric Wood 5. RHP Chad Kuhl
Also pitching for Pirates: LH Tony Watson, RH Daniel Hudson, LH Wade LeBlanc, RH Jared Hughes, RH Pat Light
>>> Sunday’s game: Pirates (RHP Jameson Taillon) at Yankees (RHP Masahiro Tanaka), 1:05 p.m., Steinbrenner Field, Tampa. Radio: 93.7 FM.
Also pitching for Pirates: RH Nick Kingham, RH Clay Holmes, LH Antonio Bastardo, RH A.J. Schugel, LH Dan Runzler.
Also pitching for Yankees: LH Aroldis Chapman, LH Tommy Layne, RH Tyler Clippard, RH Luis Cessa, RH Yefry Ramirez, RH Chance Adams
>>> Monday’s game: Yankees (RHP Bryan Mitchell) at Pirates (TBA), 1:05 p.m., LECOM Park, Bradenton. TV: Root. Radio: 93.7 FM.
Also pitching for Yankees: LH Jordan Montgomery, LH Jon Niese, LH Evan Rutckyj
Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.