The Pittsburgh Pirates promoted top pitching prospect Gerrit Cole in the midst of significant ballyhoo and excitement in 2013. The 22-year-old responded well to that pressure, going 10-7 in 19 starts with a 3.22 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP.
On a roster that otherwise did not make a lot of changes or improvements entering the 2014 season, there is no shortage of pressure on Cole to pitch like an ace or something darn close to it this year. Facing an admittedly weak Chicago Cubs lineup on Thursday, Cole struck out 10 as the Pirates were able to win 5-4.
Not that it was easy for Cole, as he did surrender four runs. Even still, his stuff was impressive, leaving the Cubs flailing at a number of pitches thanks to his fastball/slider combo.
Of particular note were some of the 95-96 MPH fastballs he threw.
There’s nothing like that elite velocity, especially from a guy who can locate it. It should be fun to watch Cole over the course of the season as he and the Pirates try to repeat their pitching-driven success from a year ago.