—Gerrit Cole makes his debut, one anxiously awaited by Pirates fans since essentially the moment he was drafted almost two years ago to this very day, when the Pirates made him the No. 1 overall choice in the 2011 MLB Amateur Entry Draft. Cole’s short career in the minors saw him go 14-10 in 200 innings between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis.
Manager Clint Hurdle said he chatted with Cole for about 15 minutes this afternoon and stressed to the 22-year old to just go play the game.
“He gets to blaze his own trail. I share with all the players when they get here to respect everything and fear nothing. First thoughts count for a lot: if you’re aggressive or is you’re passive, if you’re out to deliver or you’re out to dominate. Whatever your mindset might be—just go,” Hurdle said. “I’m very confident he’s going to handle this very professionally.”
–The last time the Pirates faced Cole’s mound opponent Lincecum, the Bucs chased him after just three and one-third innings pitched in which they scored six runs last July. In his career against Pittsburgh, Lincecum is 1-2 with a 4.45 ERA in 32 and one-third innings pitched.
But of Pirate hitters currently on the roster, Lincecum has been pretty successful against the likes of players like Clint Barmes, Russell Martin, Garrett Jones, and Andrew McCutchen. As a whole, the Pirates who have faced Lincecum prior to tonight own a collective .149 batting average against the righty with 20 strikeouts against only six walks.
Lincecum is struggling once again this season after a difficult 2012 campaign, and comes off a month of May that saw him go 1-4 with a 6.27 earned run average. Overall, Lincecum has made just four quality starts in his 12 outings this season.
–In order to make room for Cole on the 25-man roster, starting pitcher Wandy Rodriguez was moved to the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 6. Rodriguez left his start against the Atlanta Braves with forearm soreness and was slated to throw a bullpen session which did not occur.
“He actually had complications Sunday playing catch in Chicago so the bullpen session never really got off the ground yesterday,” Hurdle said.
Furthermore, on the injury front, Charlie Morton now is likely to start Thursday’s game against the Giants in place of Jeanmar Gomez. Gomez’s last start against Cincinnati on June 2 saw him leave the game after one inning due to tightness in his arm. Because of the off-day last week, the Pirates were able to skip Gomez’s turn in the rotation and jump from No. 4 starter Francisco Liriano to ace A.J. Burnett on Saturday.
“Charlie has become the Plan A,” Hurdle said. “His last start was his best start. He threw just short of 100 pitches, six-plus innings, 10 ground-ball outs.”
In Triple-A Indianapolis, James McDonald will make another rehab start tonight against the Norfolk Tides.
“Strike zone command, controlling the running game would be two targets,” Hurdle said about McDonald’s start. “We’re looking for him to get up to 90 pitches.”
–In other McDonald news, infield utilityman John McDonald was dealt to the Cleveland Indians yesterday. The Pirates will received either a player to be named later or cash considerations. The emergence of Jordy Mercer as a legitimate back-up (and possibly a better option to start) at the shortstop and middle infield positions made McDonald obsolete. Mercer even made an appearance at first base in extra innings against the Detroit Tigers two weeks ago.
–Most interesting of all Hurdle’s pre-game comments revolved around his statement that Pirate pitchers will not be held to a pitch count any longer. Earlier this season, pitch counts became an increasing concern especially when it came to pitchers like A.J. Burnett and Jeanmar Gomez.
“I’m not paying attention to the number of pitches anymore the rest of the year for anybody,” Hurdle said. “It’s going to be about the barrel of the bat of the other team, how many times men get on base, how they handle the strict situations in duress situations. I want to make sure we get nobody, nobody, looking in the rearview mirror at 95 pitches thinking I’ve got something left.”
Rather than identifying a number of pitches, Hurdle is now placing an emphasis on his pitchers staying on the mound deep into ballgames.
“If you want a number, if you absolutely have to have a goal because some of us men need to have goals to compete, pitch seven full innings and we’ll figure it out after that what our next step is. That’s kind of where we’re going with our starting pitching,” Hurdle said.
1. Starling Marte LF
2. Travis Snider RF
3. Andrew McCutchen CF
4. Garrett Jones 1B
5. Russell Martin C
6. Pedro Alvarez 3B
7. Neil Walker 2B
8. Clint Barmes SS
9. Gerrit Cole P
1. Gregor Blanco CF
2. Marco Scutaro 2B
3. Buster Posey C
4. Hunter Pence RF
5. Brandon Belt 1B
6. Andres Torres LF
7. Brandon Crawford SS
8. Joaquin Arias 3B
9. Tim Lincecum P