PHOENIX -- The Pirates have moved their annual PirateFest indoor event up a month to December, meaning that tickets for the 2012 season will be available before the end of this year.

The event will still span three days, with the Friday, Dec. 16, session set aside for season-ticket holders only. The indoor carnival will be open to everyone else on Saturday, Dec. 17 (10 a.m.-7 p.m. ET), and Sunday, Dec. 18 (12 p.m.-5 p.m.). It will once again be held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in downtown Pittsburgh.

Individual game tickets for 2012 will go on sale when the doors open for PirateFest on Dec. 17. Those tickets will be available for purchase at the Convention Center, online at www.pirates.com or by calling 1-877-893-BUCS.

Details about which players and coaches will be participating in PirateFest this winter will be released closer to the event date. There will once again be autograph sessions and question-and-answer sessions with players, management and coaches. Interactive game shows, baseball clinics and carnival-like games have also become annual staples at the event.

In another change to PirateFest, the event will be expanded into two halls at the Convention Center to accommodate more fans and spread out the activity areas.

Tickets for PirateFest will go on sale at 10 a.m. ET on Nov. 1 and can be purchased at www.pirates.com/piratefest or by calling 1-800-BUY-BUCS. The cost is $12 for adults and $4 for children 14 years or younger.

First overall pick Cole headed to AFL

PHOENIX -- The Pirates have made it official: Right-hander Gerrit Cole, the top pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, will be participating in the Arizona Fall League. Cole will join six other members of the organization on the Mesa Solar Sox club, which begins play in two weeks.

Cole is the third straight No. 1 pick to make his professional debut in the AFL. Stephen Strasburg (2009) and Bryce Harper (2010), both of whom are in the Nationals organization, were the previous two.

The Pirates made the decision to send Cole to Arizona after having him spend several weeks working out and throwing at the Pirates' complex in Bradenton, Fla. Cole reported to Florida after agreeing to an $8 million signing bonus just before the Aug. 15 signing deadline.

"We felt it would be a good step for him, a good entry into professional baseball," general manager Neal Huntington said. "He reported to Florida in good shape. He was a great learner. He was a great student for [pitching coordinator] Jim Benedict and some of our coaches down there. We felt that the best way to develop him was to challenge him."

The Pirates attach a workload limit to each of their players participating in the AFL, and Cole's will be more liberal than most. He doesn't have to worry about the same fatigue issues as others because he has not pitched competitively since the end of his collegiate season at UCLA.

"We do want to see him deal with some success. We also need to see him deal with some failure," Huntington said. "We hope that he gets challenged out there and see how he handles it."

How Cole fares -- not so much in results, but in execution and consistency of mechanics and command -- this fall will help dictate where he begins in the Pirates' Minor League system next year. Asked if Cole would be given a non-roster invitation to Spring Training next season, Huntington remained non-committal.

Along with Cole, the Pirates are sending the following players to the AFL: Nathan Baker (LHP), Phil Irwin (RHP), Mike Colla (RHP), Jarek Cunningham (INF), Brock Holt (INF) and Robbie Grossman (OF).

Bucs bits

• Catcher Matt Pagnozzi earned the start on Wednesday, making him the eighth different catcher used by the club this season. That is one short of the franchise record set in 1914 and is the most since the Pirates used eight in '53.

• Lyle Overbay made his first appearance against the Pirates on Wednesday, when he hit sixth and played first. Overbay was released by the Pirates in August after hitting .227 in 103 games.

• Pedro Ciriaco made the fourth start of his career on Wednesday. Ciriaco has gone 10-for-23 with two doubles, a triple and six RBIs in his last 12 games with the Pirates.