|photo by Grant Jefferies|
Conventional wisdom suggests money is behind the move: By keeping Cole, who was reassigned to minor-league camp Monday, off the major-league roster until June, the Pirates slow Cole's arbitration clock by a year and save themselves a ton of dough.
General manager Neal Huntington said that is not the case.
"Everybody's going to speculate why he's being sent out, and they're wrong," Huntington said. "He's being sent out because in our minds, he's not ready to compete and be successful at the major league level and be one of those top-of-the-rotation starters. And that's our goal for him.
"The fastball command was encouraging. The breaking balls didn't show up like it did in the minors, the change-up didn't show up like it did in the minors. But the fastball command did, and that's a great sign for him."
The Pirates took Cole with the first overall pick of the 2011 draft, and he went 9-7 with a 2.80 ERA in 26 starts last season combined with the organization's affiliates in high Single-A (Bradenton), Double-A (Altoona) and Triple-A (Indianapolis).
Huntington said Cole, who logged 132 innings last season, will begin 2013 back in Indy.
"There's a checklist of things for him to work on, and as he takes them off, he'll get closer to the big leagues," Huntington said. "But the track record of professional pitchers with less than 200 innings that get to the major leagues is about a 50-50 hit rate."
Cole was 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA in three appearances this spring for the Pirates. In his one start this spring, he allowed a run on five hits in four innings against the Minnesota Twins.
"It's frustrating," Cole said of the reassignment, "because I pitched well."
Despite the decision, Huntington sounded pleased with what the Pirates saw of Cole this spring.
"We're excited about him. He showed up great here in camp," he said. "But we still have some work left to do, we've given him what that checklist is, and he's very confident he's going to get that accomplished."