BRADENTON, Fla. -- It took Spain's World Baseball Classic team until the third inning to put a ball in play Tuesday against Gerrit Cole. By then, Cole had struck out six consecutive batters.
Cole made his third appearance of the spring, but he has pitched just once in an official Grapefruit League game. He started the intrasquad scrimmage in February in addition to the exhibition game Tuesday. Spain sported a thinner lineup than the one the Tampa Bay Rays used Feb. 27, his previous outing, but Cole, the Pirates' 22-year-old top prospect, looked the part regardless.
"He took care of what he could take care of today," manager Clint Hurdle said. "That was going out, pounding the zone, throwing strikes and being effective. It was a good development day for him, a good competition day for him."
Cole's fastball sat at 94 to 97 mph, according to one talent evaluator, and his slider hit 89-90.
"I just kind of treated it like every other start," Cole said. "I just tried to nail the delivery in the bullpen and just take it out in the game and be aggressive."
Cole struck out the side on 15 pitches in the first and 13 in the second. He used his fastball, slider and curve, including a couple of perfect breaking pitches, but said he is still developing the feel for his off-speed pitches this spring.
"I tried to throw a few early in the count today to get some in the zone and then a few to expand," he said. "It's early."
Cole paid more attention to his fastball than the off-speed pitches.
"I think it's more so about fastball location," he said. "The breaking ball and changeup, arm speed will get [the batters] sometimes rather than the break. It's just important to get ahead of them and get them on the ground early."
Spain's first batter in the third, Jesus Merchan, grounded out. Consecutive singles by Yasser Gomez and Gabriel Suarez, with Gomez running on the pitch to Suarez, put men on first and third with one out. Cole then picked off Suarez, walked Daniel Figueroa and forced Paco Figueroa to ground out.
"He just got that ball through the hole there and then the hit-and-run didn't work out in our favor," Cole said. "We did a good job minimizing."
Cole, the first overall pick in the 2011 draft, pitched two games above Class AA last season. He struck out seven and allowed three runs on six hits in one Class AAA Indianapolis start in the regular season. In two innings in the Class AAA playoffs against Charlotte, Cole allowed eight runs on nine hits. He will begin the season in Indianapolis.
"He needs to pitch," Hurdle said. "Just do what he's doing. He needs to go out there, command his fastball, downhill plane, throw a sharp breaking ball, be able to throw secondary pitches for strikes."
Jeff Karstens (biceps tightness) felt good after throwing two innings of live batting practice Tuesday at Pirate City, Hurdle said. Karstens faced simulated game conditions in the second inning.
Karstens will throw another live batting practice session before appearing in a Grapefruit League game. Hurdle said he was not sure at this point whether Karstens would be ready for the start of the season.
"We'll evaluate more after his next time out because then we can map out a competitive schedule for him," Hurdle said.
Russell Martin (sore shoulder) is tentatively scheduled to catch Saturday, Hurdle said. Martin caught only one game this spring before the soreness relegated him to designated-hitter duty.
Pirates win exhibition
The Pirates had 16 hits in a 10-0 win against Spain's entry in the World Baseball Classic in an exhibition game Tuesday at McKechnie Field.
Gaby Sanchez went 3 for 3 with a home run over the new bleachers in left field.
He started at third base and was the only Pirates regular to play. The Pirates will send most of their starters to Fort Myers today to face the Boston Red Sox.
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published March 6, 2013 5:00 AM