It won't be long before the Pirates' treasured pitching prospects make it to Pittsburgh.
Gerrit Cole, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 draft and the best of those prospects, was promoted to Double-A Altoona just two months into his first professional season. He pretty much left the Pirates no choice, going 5-1 with a 2.55 ERA, 69 strikeouts and 21 walks in 67 innings and an opponents' batting average of .217.
The kid was reaching the point of being unhittable, touching 102 mph on the radar guy in his final Bradenton start Thursday night.
"He's a young man who is highly motivated and highly skilled," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He was probably in a league where he didn't get many punches thrown back. When you get to a place where you're continually better, you want to make sure you can rise to a level that is more challenging."
Cole, 21, is in line to at least open 2013 in Triple-A and be in Pittsburgh some point later that summer, though no one in management has offered anything resembling a timetable.
His Double-A debut will come Wednesday against visiting New Britain.
Cole will be joined, sooner rather than later, by two other right-handed studs, Jameson Taillon and Luis Heredia.
Taillon, the No. 2 overall pick in 2010, has fallen on hard times over the last four starts for Bradenton, but his 4.52 ERA and 62 strikeouts are still outstanding for a 20-year-old at that level. Heredia, the elite Mexican signee, learned in the last week he'll pitch for Class A short-season State College this summer at age 17.