Early this afternoon, Matt Bandi, James Santelli, and I had a Twitter conversation about when we expected to see Gerrit Cole, the merits of letting him dominate in the minors vs. struggle a bit in the Majors, and what the Pirates were hoping to see from him in Indianapolis in general. I'm sticking with my earlier prediction, that Cole will get just about as many starts with Indianapolis as he got in Altoona and Bradenton, and that we should probably expect him in the Pirates' rotation by early to mid June at the earliest.
All of that being said, Will Carroll, baseball injury writer and Indianapolis native, Tweeted this out today:
Opening Day in Indy won't be Cole vs Bauer. Cole's being matched up with 5 starter for Pittsburgh, which says he won't be around long.
— Will Carroll (@injuryexpert) April 2, 2013
Tim Williams, who knows as much about the Pirates' system as anyone, pointed out that that may be reading into things too much:
@jamessantelli @injuryexpert I don't know if that means a lot. They're just continuing their normal five day rotations from Spring Training.
— Tim Williams (@timwilliamsP2) April 2, 2013
Now, on one hand it's true that the Pirates tend to hold prospects to individual schedules and that those schedules are completely independent of what's happening with the Major League team (see: Starling Marte). On the other hand, it's true that whether Cole is completely ready for Pittsburgh or not, there's an awfully good chance that he's going to be better than Jonathan Sanchez and Jeanmar Gomez right off the bat and that this Pirate team has a need for Gerrit Cole pretty much whenever. On a third seperate hand, the team should certainly take wasting a year of service time into account, especially when you consider that Cole threw less than 140 innings last year and that bringing him to Pittsburgh earlier will very likely cause his season to end earlier. Consider how badly the Nationals botched the Stephen Strasburg situation last year compared to how wonderfully the Braves handled Kris Medlen's innings in a similar bind and try to imagine Cole making a start in Pittsburgh on May 1, then Charlie Morton starting a one-game wild card playoff in October because Cole's been shelved for the season by hitting an inning coung.
What's the final takeaway? I don't know. I'm still not expecting Cole before June, but I'm willing to admit that there's room here for me to be wrong.