Gerrit Cole OK going from Pirate ace to middle of Astros’ stacked deck


It’s good to be king, and it’s good to be Cole.

Only this spring is it all coming together in one tidy baseball fable, with the Houston Astros, rulers of the baseball world, adding Gerrit Cole to a starting rotation that already was as good as it gets.

Cole previously pitched for the Pittsburgh Pirates, one of four teams recently targeted in a grievance for what the players’ union says is a failure to revenue-sharing income to improve the on-field product.

On Wednesday, Cole pitched against another of the teams in that grievance, the Miami Marlins and he looked sharp in 3 2/3 scoreless innings. And he will just keep getting sharper, because he’s working now for an organization that doesn’t need to count on any one arm or any one bat to save the day, and the series, and the season.

When Cole joined the club by trade in January, Houston general manager Jeff Luhnow said what Marlins fans hope to hear Derek Jeter saying one day, if Miami’s latest reboot should last long enough and progresses steadily enough to ignite the franchise in the same way that the Astros’ own ultimate makeover did.

“This move gives us a better chance over the next two years to repeat and hopefully get another championship,” Luhnow said. “That’s been our goal all along, to get to the point of competitiveness and win a championship and hopefully win multiple championships.”

Who do these guys think they are, the New York Yankees of the late 1990’s?

Oh, wait a minute, the Astros defeated the Yankees in last October’s ALCS, a sea change of a seven-game series, and they bumped off the Red Sox and the Dodgers, too, in the course of their championship parade through the postseason.

No wonder Cole announced that he was “flat-out elated” to go from the No. 1 pitcher in Pittsburgh to No. 3 in Houston behind Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel, a couple of Cy Young Award winners.

Last year, he worked 203 innings and started 33 games to carve out a dozen victories. It was major league baseball, sure, but it must have been a major pain at times, just as it was for new Yankee Giancarlo Stanton during his eight Miami seasons without a playoff appearance.

Can’t blame guys like this, transplanted, transformed, and once they’re comfortable in their new surroundings, you can’t hardly beat them, either.

Cole, for instance, got in just one jam during his portion of what turned out to be a 7-6 Miami win at FITTEAM Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, and he cleaned up that mess by striking out Miami cleanup hitter Justin Bour with the bases loaded. By the time Astros manager A.J. Hinch called Cole out of the game, the right-hander had lowered his ERA to 1.04 in three spring-training starts and had pushed his strikeout total to eight in 8 2/3 innings.

How Don Mattingly would love to have a talent like this former No. 1 overall draft pick to send out to the mound on opening day, and how he would revel in knowing that the fundamentals of a winning organization are already in place in Miami and not being taught, painstakingly, position by position and day by day.

“I feel tremendously fortunate to be here and to be wanted by a club that’s so well-equipped already,” Cole said. “Not only is there talent but there’s unselfishness and there’s preparation and there’s conversing with (catcher Brian McCann) before the game and after the game.

“This is spring training. You could easily go out there and just try to get your pitch count up, try to feel comfortable, but we play at such a high level over here that the details are important, trying to hammer out some of those minute things so that when April comes around you can flow and you get out of big situations.”

Doesn’t hurt, either, to have a pocket powerhouse like Jose Altuve, the three-time batting champion and reigning American League MVP, knocking dents in the other pitcher’s confidence, either. Altuve mashed a two-run homer to dead center field off Justin Nicolino while Cole was in the game. A new teammate can get used to that.

“You know they’ve got good pitching,” Mattingly said of Houston, “but all those guys you consider aces were young guys, too, at one point. We’re just in the same boat.”

And fishing, more patiently than ever, for talent that can grow into trophy Marlins.



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