Nats' Cole Ready For Full Season





VIERA, Fla. — This spring, A.J. Cole was enjoying his profession, his location and his organization.

Cole is a 19-year-old righthander who set a fourth-round record by receiving a $2 million signing bonus last August. The Miami Hurricanes missed out on a pitcher whose fastball has been clocked at 98 mph and averages 92-93. Once projected as a top-10 pick, he still received top-10 money after a senior season that started with him struggling with the flu.

"All I wanted to do was basically play baseball, so that's what it came down to," Cole said.

If all goes well before minor league Opening Day, the 6-foot-4 Cole will head to low Class A Hagerstown. Last year, he pitched one inning of short-season ball and 12 innings in instructional league.

"It was a little different, but it was a lot of good work," Cole said of instructional league. "I got my placement a lot better. My changeup was better, and I'm still working on getting a feel for that."

In Viera, Cole is 50 miles from his hometown of Oviedo in the Orlando area.
Cole throws a two-seam fastball, four-seamer and knuckle curve. His delivery needed almost no changes. "My release point may be just a tad different, but I feel it's the same," he said.

CAPITAL GAINS

• Right fielder Bryce Harper, the top pick in the 2010 draft, hit .389/.450/.556 in 18 major league spring training at-bats before being optioned to Hagerstown. "He has all the skills to be a really good outfielder, a plus outfielder," manager Jim Riggleman said. Harper sprained his left ankle in late March, but X-Rays were negative and he was on track to make his professional debut on April 7, as planned.

• Eury Perez wasn't part of the wide-open competition for playing time in center field at the major league level, but he was showing signs he could be the center fielder of the future. Perez, 20, had appeared in five games in big league camp. He was 1-for-4, with the hit coming before a stolen base and him scoring the winning run in a 10-inning road game against the Mets.