Through his first three MLB starts, Pittsburgh Pirates phenom Gerrit Cole has certainly shown that he belongs.
Spectacular – or whatever adjective you choose to use to describe his performance – is fitting, but has it been enough to earn the former No. 1 overall pick a permanent spot in the Bucs’ starting rotation?
The common opinion is that there is no way that Cole could be sent back to the minors after what he has shown, but I wouldn’t count on it.
When the Pirates staff becomes completely healthy, the likes of A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, Jeff Locke and Francisco Liriano have spots locked up. That leaves Cole competing with likely three other pitchers – James McDonald, Charlie Morton and Jeanmar Gomez – for the final spot.
McDonald has likely thrown his final pitch in a Pirates uniform so he’s no threat to Cole. As good as Gomez has been, he could be ticketed for the bullpen once everyone gets healthy.
Therefore the final spot likely could go to either Morton or Cole. As bad as it sounds, that’s a battle Cole is likely to lose and unfortunately it has nothing to do with who is the better pitcher.
Of all the Pirates starters, Cole is the only one with minor-league options remaining, which likely makes him the odd man out.
It may have something to do with money, but since he wasn’t called up until June 11, Cole shouldn’t hit Super Two status.
Instead, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington suggested Cole could go back down to Triple-A for depth purposes.
“There’s a business component to it, as far as keeping our depth,” Huntington said (via Tribune-Review’s Rob Biertempfel). “Gerrit’s probably got the best stuff of anybody in the rotation … (and) he’s made three impressive outings. But the challenge is, if we need another starter (due to injury) later, it may make sense to send Gerrit back so we have a sixth quality starter.”
If that happens and Cole is sent back down, it won’t be a popular move to say the least. I wouldn’t necessarily agree with it, but I understand where Huntington is coming from.
You also have to wonder how it will affect Cole. He’s done everything possible to make this team out of spring training and everything possible and more to prove he belongs. A demotion could have a negative effect on a young pitcher and completely demoralize him.
But despite being only the second No. 1 overall pick to begin his career 3-0, defeating two Cy Young Award winners in his first two starts, it looks like it won’t be good enough to keep Cole in the majors for the long haul.
If that happens, it will be a shame.