Pirates notebook: Cole could have playoff role
Neal Huntington said every Pirates pitcher has a workload-related red line the organization will not cross. But if the Pirates advance to play in October, the Pirates general manager said Sunday that rookie starter Gerrit Cole will be available for inclusion on the postseason roster. Huntington does not expect Cole to cross the club’s internal limit for innings pitched and pitches thrown.
“We’re confident Gerrit is going to be able to sustain a workload throughout,” Huntington said.
Cole has been managed carefully, with the club suppressing his innings and total pitches. He’s thrown 100 pitches or more in one start, which was his Friday outing when he tallied 102. Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg, who was controversially shut down at 159 innings pitched last season, threw at least 100 pitches in eight starts through Aug. 4 last year.
Clubs are often hesitant to drastically increase a young pitcher’s total innings count from year to year, fearing young arms are vulnerable to injury related to workload. Cole threw 150 innings last season, including his instructional league work. A 25 percent increase in workload would place Cole at 188 innings in 2013.
Cole has thrown a combined 129 innings between the majors and Triple-A this season and is on pace to throw 190 innings in the regular season. However, the Pirates have plans to reduce his innings if necessary.
“We’ll pick some starts to have a short outing,” Huntington said. “We’ll pick some spots to have an extra day of rest or even miss a start.”
What is Cole’s limit for workload?
“If we pass it, we’ll let you guys know,” Huntington said.
For Cole to pitch in October, he must also pass the organization’s eye test.
“(Manager) Clint (Hurdle) will watch what his eyes are telling him,” Huntington said. “Is (Cole’s) stuff still crisp? Is he still commanding it? (Cole) will show us where he needs to go.”
Cole doesn’t want to know what the plan is.
“I don’t want to think about,” Cole said. “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.”
Huntington said Cole’s postseason role likely would be as a starter, though no determination has been made on Cole’s potential October role.
“If we have four guys we like better than Gerrit Cole, it means we are in a really good spot,” Huntington said.
James McDonald (shoulder) is scheduled to begin the bullpen phase of his rehab Monday. He has not pitched in a game since April 30.
“We are looking for James to be able to help us again at some point this season,” Huntington said. “It’s a matter of what role.”
Jeff Karstens, who had shoulder surgery June 8, said he will begin throwing Tuesday with a flat-ground session at PNC Park, then leave Thursday for Bradenton, Fla., to begin full rehabilitation. His goal is to rejoin the staff for September, though that is far from certain.
Down on the farm
Huntington said Sunday that top pitching prospect Jameson Taillon is unlikely to join the Pirates this season, but the club has been pleased with his progress. Taillon was promoted to Triple-A Indianapolis on Friday.
“We felt like the changeup, his belief in it, and the quality and consistency of it was ready for the next level,” Huntington said. “The two-seam (fastball), four-seam (fastball), and curveball have been ready for a while.”
Huntington has received glowing reports on both the bat and glove of first-round pick Reese McGuire, a catcher who is batting .368 in his first 24 games in the Gulf Coast League. Fellow first-round pick Austin Meadows is batting .291 with two homers in the GCL.
Pirates closer Jason Grilli (flexor muscle) was re-evaluated by Pirates doctors this week, and the club reported Sunday that Grilli is “making quality progress.” Grilli remains in the rest phase of his rehab.