First Pitch: Cole is Better Off in Minor League Camp

The Pittsburgh Pirates cutting Gerrit Cole today wasn’t unexpected. The timing of the move, with Cole being the first cut from camp, also wasn’t a surprise. There was simply no way Cole was making the Major League team out of camp this year.

After the move was announced, I received several questions about the move. Most of those questions were about concerns over Cole getting cut so soon. People wanted to know if it was normal. One person pointed out that Trevor Bauer is still in camp with Arizona.

There’s a reason Cole was invited to Major League camp in the first place. He signed so late that he didn’t get any playing time during the 2011 season. The Pirates sent him to the Fall Instructional Leagues, then to the Arizona Fall Leagues to get some experience. But they still needed to make up for lost time. So they invited him to Major League camp. It was a small difference, but there’s still a difference.

Cole reported in the middle of February with the other pitchers and catchers. Minor league camp is currently in it’s first full week. Even if Cole was one of the players who reported early to camp, he’d be about a week and a half behind everyone else. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but there’s a difference. Prior to being cut, Cole pitched in two games. Both were intrasquad games, including two innings during the B game on Wednesday. The players in minor league camp, even the guys who reported early, aren’t to the point where they can pitch in actual games.

That extra week put Cole in a position where he could throw two innings in an exhibition game on Wednesday. Meanwhile, the workload for most pitchers in minor league camp on Thursday amounted to a 20 pitch live batting practice session.

The benefit might not be major, but there definitely was a benefit to giving Cole a head start. That said, there’s no benefit to keeping him in Major League camp. It would be hard to find innings for Cole to get him stretched out for the regular season. He needs to keep building up his arm for the season, moving well beyond the two innings he threw on Wednesday. The Pirates couldn’t do that in major league camp, unless they took innings away from other pitchers. It would be foolish to try and find innings for Cole, someone who isn’t making the team this year, at the possible expense of guys who are actually going to make the team.

In Major League camp, Cole isn’t the priority. The priority is preparing players for the season. The season in Pittsburgh, that is. Cole becomes the priority in Minor League camp. The focus there will be on getting him ready for the season, rather than focusing on James McDonald or Charlie Morton. The Pirates don’t have to worry about finding innings for him in minor league camp, which will allow him to get ready for the season, and get on track to eventually making his way up to the big leagues.

Links and Notes

**The Pirates lost in extra innings today. Here is Kristy’s story, along with information on James McDonald’s changeup.

**From last night, my look at the international hitting prospects in the lower levels. I mentioned Gregory Polanco is my sleeper this year. All I’ve seen him do in camp is hit. Today in live batting practice the left hander homered against left handed pitcher Nathan Baker.

**Help the site out by taking the Pirates Prospects survey. By taking it, you will be entered in a chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card. Plus you’ll give us the chance to learn more about the site’s audience, which will allow the site to continue to grow.

About Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He is a credentialed media member with every team in the Pirates’ system, including the Pirates themselves. He’s a regular guest on Extra Innings on 104.7, and makes regular appearances on ESPN 970, 93.7 The Fan, and TribLIVE Radio in Pittsburgh, as well as ESPN 1430 in Altoona and ESPN 1450 in State College.
  • salempirate

    I thought Cole did a fantastic job of saying all the right things since being in camp. Attitude is important. The extra work was a bonus of sorts.

     I’m not too sure if others would agree, but the Pirates appear to have players up and down their system who are respectful and have good PR skills. No Brash Harper’s for them, but I’m sure the Bucs could grit their teeth a little in exchange for his talents.

  • john.alcorn

    I’m pretty sure others agree that we’d trade any of our prospects for Harper. Attitude is overrated.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=72405411 Ian Rothermund

     I’d say it just depends on how bad the attitude is.  Sometimes the attitude can be bad enough to negatively impact the team, to act as if it doesn’t is just dumb.  Most of the time, those guys go unnoticed or are just ignored in the clubhouse.  However, a guy that brings a healthy attitude with positive leadership abilities with only average numbers can help out a team more than a guy hitting 40 HR a year who’s a jerk.

    I can’t really comment either way in regards to Harper; although sometimes he seems like a jerk.  He may not really be that way, but it doesn’t seem like he helps himself out either.  In the end, if I were the Nationals’ GM I’d really like to see Harper eat some Humble Pie before I called him up.  In fact, I think I’d rather call him after a bad month than a good one.

    I think the Pirates have done a very good job choosing good character guys.  However, if they could’ve had Harper that year, the conversations among Pirates fans about his character would really be limited to apologetic themes.  If he had still been available, he would be in the Pirate’s system right now, no doubt.