Pittsburgh Pirates starter Gerrit Cole lost my trust Monday.
Talking to reporters in St. Louis, Cole pretty much no commented when asked if he would make his scheduled start Wednesday.
“I’ve got nothing for you on that,” Cole said.
For the second time this season, Cole has been placed on the disabled list and will miss an undetermined amount of time.
Yes the above quote may have been ordered by Clint Hurdle or someone else in the Pirates front office; however, it also could mean that Cole seriously was in the dark about what his next step was.
If it was the latter, then Pirates fans should be concerned. With the announcement comes the difficulty of not being able to play for a second period of time this season.
“It’s been a frustrating day,” Cole said Tuesday to reporters. “I felt it in the game and it responded decently the last couple of days. It didn’t feel good, it didn’t look the same. If you can’t be yourself in the bullpen, you can’t be yourself when you pitch. It’s hard enough to get through the Cardinals lineup when you’re feeling good. I had my heart set on this series, I was looking forward to pitching.”
The fact of the matter is that Cole has a lot of things to correct and it is in his best interest to miss significant time to figure it out. First he needs to get healthy. Enough of this in-and-out business. Cole is very important to the Pirates future and in my mind more critical than merely to this season.
If a move to sideline Cole for the season were to be made, it would not be catastrophic as it would have been in past seasons. Jeff Locke has become the dominant pitcher he was in the first half of last season. Brandon Cumpton has shown promise and poise despite his constant trips between Triple-A Indianapolis and Pittsburgh.
Cumpton would be the ultimate beneficiary, as would the Pirates, who could see if he can stick in the major leagues and get a fair shake instead of getting the Pedro Ciriaco treatment.
Francisco Liriano also will return for the weekend series against the Cincinnati Reds. If Liriano can pitch like he did during Monday’s rehab start, then you have two dependable lefties in your starting rotation and it would provide more of a balance.
Another problem for Cole: his high pitch counts. I’m tired of seeing Cole having thrown 90 pitches after five innings. This is not efficient. Hitters know exactly what Cole is throwing and even if they get out, they still can extend at-bats with fouling off many pitches.
Cole is getting out of games earlier now and needs to use more off-speed pitches. Advanced statistics show Cole is starting to develop more of a sinker when instead he should increase his usage in the curveball and changeup, both of which are down in pitches thrown since returning from his first DL stint.
Cole’s sinker and four-seam fastball both routinely hit 97 miles per hour. In a sense this makes him a two-pitch pitcher, in that he throws either a fastball or a slider. His slider usage is up, as he threw it 25 percent of the time in his last start.
These are concerning signs and with batters picking up on the fact that Cole basically throws two pitches, it makes things easier, especially a second or third time around in the batting order.
With Cole’s injuries, another concern has to be Tommy John surgery. His high pitch counts and high velocity make him a perfect candidate to sideline him for longer than half a season. Missing that much time would be a disaster and if he has the surgery along with Jameson Taillon, that would mean your two aces on your future pitching staff would both be out – that would be a worst-case scenario.
Before you dismiss it, remember Jose Fernandez, Matt Harvey and Matt Moore are among other yuong power pitcher types that are currently missing time. In today’s game, 95 miles an hour is a normal velocity for a fastball and with pitchers throwing harder than ever before, the risk for Tommy John surgery is that much higher.
Cole is an asset for the Pirates team, but in his current state with a logjam of starters, the injuries, inconsistencies and possibilities scare me. In May, Cole started six times and threw 398 fastballs, which is far too many. Cole and Searage need to team up where Cole takes things slowly and in addition to his physical break he takes a mental one as well.
I would like for it to be for the rest of the season, but even at worst case if it is until September, Cole would recharge and rejoin a Pirates team that could still be in a playoff chase.
As Clint Hurdle told reporters Tuesday, the Pirates are not in panic mode. “I can honor frustration,” said Hurdle. “We’re not dealing with something other pitchers are dealing with. The risk wasn’t worth the reward.”
Hurdle stated that the injury is not a Tommy John or another drastic injury. In theory, Cole could miss only one start and return following the all-star break, but that would be unwise. He probably could have used one rehab start just to get familiar with competition again and then pitch again.
Now the Pirates need to take their time with Cole and in my mind just end the season. Cole is a competitor and his spirit could be getting the best of him. Cole is going to want to come back as soon as possible, but the Pirates need to push the brakes this time and take things slow.
A shutdown is in the best interest of both sides and for those who think he should come back immediately, in the words of Mr. Cole, I’ve got nothing for you on that.