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What Are the Pittsburgh Pirates Getting with Gerrit Cole?

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | It is perhaps the most anticipated arrival for any Pittsburgh Pirate in recent memory. The news broke over the weekend that Gerrit Cole, the overall No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft, will make his Major League debut Tuesday against the San Francisco Giants at PNC Park. It didn't take long for the comparisons and hype to start rolling in.

During a television broadcast Sunday against the Chicago Cubs, Pirates booth announcers reminded fans at least seven times that Cole had been called up. At one point, a color commentator mentioned that Cole's arrival in Pittsburgh is the most significant for a Pirates pitcher since Kris Benson made his debut in 1999. Let's hope Cole's career with the team is longer and more fruitful than Benson's.

The excitement amongst fans in Pittsburgh is understandable. Baseball America rated Cole the seventh best prospect in baseball prior to the start of this season, while rated him as the ninth best. He was drafted out of UCLA in 2011 with the first overall pick, with scouts clamoring about his can't-miss talent. He carries with him a career 2.84 earned run average with 183 strikeouts in exactly 200 innings pitched in the minors, while only giving up 11 home runs in that span. He also owns an impressive 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings ratio.

On the surface, everything about Cole's arrival seems practical. The rookie brings a 19-inning scoreless streak with him from the minors, where he pitched to a 2.91 earned run average this year in 12 starts. His fastball can tip the radar at 100 miles per hour, complete with a biting slider and decent changeup. Cole's pitch repertoire and talent isn't what kept him in the minors so long.

The timing is important for several reasons, the first being that management likely kept Cole in the minors long enough to push back his arbitration clock for another year. That's the only reason the talented righty didn't break camp with the team in April. The front office could no longer justify keeping Cole banished in Indianapolis, given the abundance of injuries to the big league team's starting rotation.

It's still unclear whether Wandy Rodriguez will require a stint on the disabled list, and the rotation's fifth spot is still very much in flux with Jeanmar Gomez' injury. Names like Charlie Morton and James McDonald are still floating around the minors, waiting for a chance to regain a spot in the big leagues.

And their time will likely come soon. But for right now, and especially on Tuesday night, the moment belongs to Gerrit Cole. Does he have the maturity, skill set and willpower to be the staff ace that everyone hopes and predicts? It's obviously too early to tell, but fans will soon get their first glimpse of a man who could anchor the Pirates rotation for years to come.

Jared Stonesifer has covered the Pittsburgh Pirates for on a freelance basis since 2010. He lives in Pittsburgh.

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