By John Bauernfeind / Indianapolis Indians
In his current rehab assignment with the Indianapolis Indians, starter Gerrit Cole has been impressive, to say the least.
Working his way back from tightness in his right lat, Cole was added to the Tribe’s roster as the next step in his process of returning to his spot in the Pittsburgh Pirates’ rotation.
On July 26 – in the first of three starts made with the Tribe – Cole dominated with seven of his 15 outs via strikeout in five scoreless innings against the Rochester Red Wings. The right-hander stretched to 81 pitches, 50 of which went for strikes, in his first action since July 4.
Indians pitching coach Tom Filer was impressed with Cole. Filer talked about the “pop” to his fastball and said Cole was able to locate his secondary pitches around the plate.
“I know he really liked what he did tonight,” Filer said. “He wasn’t disappointed in anything that happened.”
Cole and the Tribe returned home from an eight-game road swing with the hurler slated to start against the Toledo Mud Hens on Saturday, Aug. 2. Riding a 24-inning scoreless streak, the former No. 1 draft pick brought a tangible excitement to Victory Field as fans reveled in the hype of Pittsburgh’s flamethrower.
However, in somewhat foreboding fashion, Cole’s start was pushed back to Aug. 5 after the hurler felt soreness in his lat. The results in his second go-round were reflective.
“The shoulder and arm didn’t recover well,” Cole said of his feel progressing into the second start. “So we worked on some things and tried to clean some things up.”
Cole lasted just 4 1/3 innings against the visiting Mud Hens in his 2014 Victory Field debut. He was chased after surrendering five runs and 10 hits through just 74 pitches.
Speaking to media after the outing, Cole reluctantly admitted he felt “brutal” after his first game in Rochester, and his gameplan for the Toledo start had less of a results-driven focus.
“You never want to put your team in a position like that, but I had a set of things I had to take care of out there,” Cole said. “Some of those things were just trying to get to the innings. I was trying to get some guys out, but, at the same time, not with the same aggressiveness. Definitely was not full-boar like last time because I think that’s kind of what got me in trouble during the week.”
After Cole was penciled in for his third of three rehab starts (as of Monday), the question lingered over the prized starter for the Tribe’s homestand finale:
Which Cole would show on Aug. 10 against the Red Wings – The one who, just 15 days prior, dominated this same Rochester squad? Or, the one who labored into the fifth frame against Toledo?
Two hours and 51 minutes later, the IL’s largest attendance on Sunday exited Victory Field in unanimous consent: Gerrit Cole has returned in force.
Cole struck out three and faced just one batter above the minimum over his six scoreless frames. He retired each of the first 14 batters before being nicked for a two-out single by Daniel Oritz, and capped his lights-out effort by setting the final four Red Wings down in order.
The right-hander worked flawlessly through Rochester’s lineup on an effortless 73 pitches, with his last offering of his outing – a fastball – touching 95 MPH on the radar gun.
Manager Dean Treanor said afterwards Cole was not limited in any capacity for his third start.
“He wasn’t tied down to [any limitations] today,” Treanor said. “What was good is when he felt he needed some velocity, he was able to ramp it up a little bit and he had the ‘OK’ to do that today. I’m sure there was more in the tank. That was a good sign.”
Cole half-heartedly agreed, saying he was pleased with his outing, but there was more work moving forward into the later stages of the season. He also reiterated the difference in gameplan between his second and third starts.
“I think the goal on Tuesday was just to get to the pitch count and the number of outs,” Cole said. “Today was a little more game oriented. Pitching to contact on all four pitches and moving the ball.”
After retiring 18 of 19 batters faced on Sunday, including 10 on groundouts, Cole is right on track by his own schedule.
“I feel good, everything went as planned” Cole said. “The next step is tomorrow.”