VIERA, Fla.—Righthander A.J. Cole is back in his home state for spring training and back with the organization that signed him for $2 million out of high school.
The 21-year-old Cole rejoined the Nationals in mid-January. He and fellow pitching prospects Blake Treinen and Ian Krol came over from the Athletics in the three-team deal that sent Michael Morse to the Mariners.
“It’s crazy,” Cole said. “I never really thought I would’ve went back to the same team. It’s just the way it works. I guess it shows I’m wanted by both sides.”
A fourth-round pick in 2010, Cole attended high school in Oviedo, about an hour drive from the Nationals’ spring training site in Viera. He said no family or friends came to visit him last year in Athletics camp in Arizona, where he found himself after being dealt for Gio Gonzalez in December 2011.
“Either way, you’re being traded and you really don’t have any control over it,” Cole said. “I’m just going in and doing what I do.”
Not only is Cole closer to home, but he has built momentum from the end of last season. He finished the summer at low Class A Burlington, where he went 6-3, 2.07 with 102 strikeouts and 19 walks in 96 innings.
Cole ranked as Oakland’s No. 3 prospect this offseason, even after an in-season demotion from high Class A Stockton, where he went 0-7, 7.82 through 38 innings.
The 6-foot-4, 180-pound Cole knows he needs to stay consistent as he eyes an assignment with high Class A Potomac this season.
“He’s still a growing young man,” farm director Doug Harris said. “He’s still growing into his body, learning how to control his body. He’s really picked up where he left off and continued to make the progress he did at the end of last year.”
• The 6-foot-4 Treinen is a “very physical kid, a good athlete,” Harris said. “He’s got really good angle, the ball jumps out of his hand, he has a good feel for his secondary stuff and he looks like he’s going to be a pretty good strike-thrower.”
• Righthander Lucas Giolito, the the organization’s top pitching prospect, embarked on a throwing program in early February as he recovers from Tommy John surgery. “We’re well-versed in (the recovery process),” Harris said, referring to Nationals starters Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann.