02/22/12 6:00 PM EST
Position players arrive early at Pirate City
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
Hurdle: Cole will have opportunities to pitch
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Gerrit Cole is hardly getting the Stephen Strasburg treatment. Unlike the last pitcher to be the overall No. 1 pick in the First-Year Player Draft, in 2009 by the Nationals, Cole has been flying under the radar in his first big league training camp.How long that will last is anybody's guess. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle reaffirmed on Wednesday that the former UCLA right-hander "will not make the team." However, Hurdle also indicated that Cole would not be left behind when Pirate City becomes the organization's Minor League camp and the Bucs begin Grapefruit League play. "We have not yet discussed that, but there'll be opportunities for him to pitch. We'll see him go," Hurdle said. "'A' games or 'B' games or college games ... we've got a bunch of different games scheduled to get innings for everybody involved. That'll play itself out." Thus far, Cole has faithfully retraced Strasburg's steps: Sign too late in the summer to get in any Minor League action, make pro debut in the Arizona Fall League, enter camp not to compete but only to adsorb the experience. Two springs ago, Strasburg appeared in three exhibitions impressively (two runs allowed and 12 strikeouts in nine innings), started the year in Double-A and was in Washington by early June. Of course, the next year Strasburg also blew out his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery -- just something else the Pirates must take into consideration, regardless of how eye-popping Cole might be in the days ahead. "You have to like everything you see, but this is just an information-gathering time for him," Hurdle said. "I told him, 'Keep your eyes open, keep your ears open -- and when it's time to pitch, go pitch and get ready to be a starting pitcher.' At whatever level he starts out."
There is no end to the Mac Pac story. One reader points out that the Pirates have seven of the total of 18 McNamed players currently in the Majors. And Neil Walker's father, Tom, writes to relate that his grandmother's maiden name was McGowan -- so the second baseman becomes an honorary member of the Mac Pac. Part of Andrew McCutchen's growth as a player is his movement down the lineup, from being predominantly the leadoff man into the heart of the batting order. Spending 109 games in the Nos. 3-4 slots last season may have raised his profile as a run-producer (his 89 RBIs were 33 above his previous high), but McCutchen disavows any preference. "Wherever it helps us more as a whole. Besides, not much changes; after your first at-bat, you're hitting somewhere," he said. The parking lot beyond the right-field fence of Field 3 at Pirate City is for the adjacent golf driving range, but it becomes target practice whenever the lefty-hitting Garrett Jones steps into the cage.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.