Cole Starts With A Strong Fall

No. 1 pick displays gas in the Arizona Fall League





PITTSBURGH—Righthander Gerrit Cole, the No. 1 overall pick in the June draft out of UCLA, has a golden arm, but he was showing in the Arizona Fall League that he can do more than just throw.

The $8 million man looked cool and composed in his first three starts as a professional, going 2-0, 3.00 in nine innings while striking out nine and walking three. Scouts watching Mesa Solar Sox games seemed just as impressed with his ability to read hitters' swings and adjust as they were with the dozen or so pitches he threw at 100 mph or harder.

In one game he faced a Scottsdale lineup that featured Mike Trout, Bryce Harper and other elite prospects, and he emerged with three scoreless innings and two hits allowed. He struck out three, relying on his full repertoire and his fielders as much as his fastball.

"You've just got to know what you're dealing with, trust your stuff, get into a rhythm," Cole said. "A lot of times, you're not going to throw your changeup until they prove they can get to your fastball. But against major league hitters or a lineup like this, you have to keep them off balance."

Cole, 21, hit 100 mph once in his first start, seven times in his second start. His changeup, which some scouts see as a potential out pitch, was sluggish in the debut but strong after that. He also threw an average slider and surprised observers with the occasional cutter.

Cole did struggle in the AFL Rising Stars game. He started the contest and recorded just two outs before being removed. He gave up five runs on two home runs.

The Pirates haven't told Cole where his first professional assignment will be to open 2012. The most likely is high Class A Bradenton, but it could be that a dominant AFL season pushes him to Double-A Altoona. Either way, Cole will go from pitching every Friday for UCLA to every five games as a pro, so that figures to provide his greatest challenge.

TREASURE TROVE

•  Rightfielder Robbie Grossman, the organization player of the year with Bradenton, was leading the AFL by batting .381/.480/.655 with a league-high six home runs. The switch-hitter's priority has been upgrading his swing from the left side.

• First baseman Matt Hague, among the organization's top hitters in 2011 with Triple-A Indianapolis, will be given a chance to make the Pirates' roster next spring.