Cole becoming must-see TV
PITTSBURGH — Gerrit Cole is scheduled to pitch for the Pirates tonight in Philadelphia, and the TV broadcast will have all the usual stats.
Another category should probably be included. Call it a temper scale.
Despite his tenure with the Pirates — he made his major league debut in 2013 — Cole sometimes let his emotions get the best of him and allows that distraction to affect his pitching.
Case in point was last Friday, when Cole was steaming during a bad outing against the San Francisco Giants.
He snarled at first baseman Josh Bell over a perceived defensive mistake. He snapped at manager Clint Hurdle in the dugout, insisting that he stay in the game.
Cole was angry because he couldn’t get out of an inning and allowed five consecutive two-out hits. The more the Giants circled the bases, the more frustrated Cole got.
That can’t happen. Baseball isn’t a game that lends itself to that kind of emotional outburst. Trying to throw the ball harder is rarely the answer. Power has to be tempered with finesse. Major league hitters will feast on fastballs down the middle. Pitchers have to change speeds and move pitches in the strike zone to hit specific spots.
That’s a difficult task under the best of circumstances, close to impossible when the man the baseball in his hand is seething.
When Doug Drabek came to the Pirates a long time ago, that was his weakness. Drabek couldn’t work past adversity.
Pitching coach Ray Miller worked with him, and things changed. Drabek could let go of bad things that happened. He would calm down, regain his focus and concentrate on the things he could still control.
Jameson Taillon has poise beyond his age and experience. When he’s in trouble, he puts the past aside and tackles the job ahead of him.
Cole has much more major league experience, yet that kind of self-control eludes him.
Cole has the ability to be a big winner in the major leagues. He might not do that until he learns how to control his emotions.
Lots of angst over Sunday’s Pirates lineup, which had Andrew McCutchen, Josh Harrison and David Freese on the bench.
The Pirates lost the game, and who knows if the rested starters would have done better than their substitutes?
Hurdle is conscious of giving his players games off. He also maintains dialog with his players.
If Hurdle gave in to Cole’s request to stay in Friday’s game, wouldn’t he have given McCutchen and Harrison the right to play if they had asked?
McCutchen fouled a ball of his left ankle Friday night and said after the game, “That one hurt, man.”
Harrison was in the midst of a 3-for-16 stretch (.188) with five strikeouts. He had just played in consecutive four-hour games. He had been hit by pitches twice in that span. Maybe he needed a day off on a hot afternoon?
Hurdle recently admitted he made a mistake by playing Freese, who’s 34, too much. Since May 29, Freese has batted .235 with one home run in 120 at bats. His slugging percentage over that time is .286. He’s not the same player who hit better than .300 in April.
It’s not inconceivable that one or more of those players went to Hurdle and said, “Hey, I could use a day.” It’s possible the trainers told Hurdle a day off would be prudent. Or maybe the manager just read his players and determined the course he took. There’s no evidence that any of the three disagreed with him.
The manager knows his players better than anyone.
Mehno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org