The Pittsburgh Pirates suffered a significant loss to the starting rotation on Sunday, as the team announced staff ace Gerrit Cole will hit the 15-day disabled list with shoulder fatigue. To replace Cole in the rotation, the Pirates have re-called left-handed pitcher, and 2013 All-Star, Jeff Locke.
Losing Cole for the immediate future is certainly a serious problem. The Pirates are below .500 and are seven games out of first place in the NL Central. Basically, it’s only early June and they are already fighting for their postseason lives. However, things don’t look too gloomy for the Pirates’ right-handed hurler, as both manager Clint Hurdle and general manager Neal Huntington seem confident that some rest will fix Cole’s fatigue.
Basically, the Pirates will have to play the next two weeks or so without their best pitcher, but it doesn’t appear to be too serious. The good news is that there doesn’t appear to be anything structurally wrong with Cole’s shoulder. The fact that nothing is wrong structurally makes sense, since Cole’s average fastball velocity is actually higher than it was last year. In 2013, it was 95.5 miles per hour, and it’s 95.6 this year. If there was something wrong, his velocity would most likely be down considerably.
There were warning signs that fatigue may have been a problem for Cole, especially in his most recent starts. Since he pitched eight innings on May 7 against the San Francisco Giants, he hasn’t gone more than 6.1 innings and he has gone less than six innings twice.
Obviously, anytime a pitcher hits the DL with a shoulder problem, people tend to automatically assume the worst. Fortunately for the Pirates, this isn’t one of those cases. This is simply a precautionary trip to the DL for their ace who will be with them for many more years. Can’t blame the Bucs for being extra careful with such a talented young arm. Hopefully, the few weeks without throwing will allow him to regain his strength and stamina, leading to a dominant Cole for the second half of the year.