As the first overall pick in the 2011 draft, much was made of Pittsburgh Pirates SP Gerrit Cole’s major league debut on Tuesday night. After striking out leadoff hitter Gregor Blanco with three pitches at or over 96 mph, Cole went on to pitch 6.1 innings, allowing two runs, yielding seven hits and striking out two.
In the minor leagues, the criticisms on Cole were consistent: with such elite stuff, he should miss more bats, walk fewer batters, and get more strikeouts. In his major league debut, Cole displayed impressive command. He attacked hitters and yielded no walks. While he had only the two strikeouts — a sad tendency that he has shown consistently in the upper levels of the minors — Cole was definitely successful in his debut.
With Wandy Rodriguez going on the disabled list, Cole could remain in the rotation for at least one more start, even with Charlie Morton making his 2013 debut on Thursday. The Pirates can use Cole as the fifth starter behind Francisco Liriano, A.J. Burnett, Jeff Locke and Morton.
Cole’s success in his debut is not terribly surprising. Pitchers are often successful in their major leagues debut as their stuff is more deceptive to hitters, who are entirely unfamiliar with it. While Pirates fans and coaches may be concerned with Cole’s success in the coming weeks, their front office should be concerned with his long-term development.
With his elite pedigree and stuff, he needs to strike out significantly more hitters if he wants to reach his ace potential. It is unclear how Cole can improve on that, or if it’s something that needs to come in the minor leagues.
Cole may remain in the major leagues in Rodriguez’s spot for the next couple of weeks, but he will likely be demoted upon Rodriguez’s return. That may be for the best, as it seems he is not fully ready to be at his best in the majors.
Gabe Isaacson is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter: @gabeisaacson.