Pirates notebook: Gerrit Cole still reaching 100 mph with ease

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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Only once Friday night did Gerrit Cole let his eyes wander to the Angel Stadium scoreboard in left-center field to see a 100-mph reading on the radar gun.

He was too focused to keep track of the other seven times.

Cole hit 100 mph or higher eight times Friday night, a remarkable feat for a starting pitcher. Matt Harvey of the New York Mets is the only other starting pitcher to hit triple digits on the radar gun this season, and he has done it only once, according to ESPN.

Hitting 100 mph isn't as rare as it used to be. But for a starter to maintain it over several innings is still impressive, said catcher Russell Martin.

"What's impressive to me is it doesn't look like there's that much effort out there," he said. "He's not out there grunting to throw 100. It's crazy. Normally, you see a closer or somebody that's going in there for 15, 20 pitches and they can go ahead and go full-out. He's sustaining that for six, seven innings."

The Pirates coaching staff has its own way of classifying those types of pitches.

"We like to call it 90-10," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Instead of 98, 99, we call it 90-10."

Cole got all the way up to 90-11 Friday night.

"I wasn't checking the scoreboard every time, but I saw a couple 'hundos' up there," Martin said.

But what impresses Hurdle and Martin more than the velocity is the movement of Cole's pitches. Pitches with a lot of velocity that stay straight eventually will end up being hit -- and hit hard. But if there is some movement, a fastball can be almost unhittable.

Cole finishes his four-seam fastball with a lot of downward movement, Martin said.

"When he keeps the ball down, I really have to focus and concentrate on not letting the ball knock my glove down because it just has that heavy finish," he said. "It's hard to explain it. Maybe because it has a little bit of sink to it."

Cole admitted he "let a few go" in front of his hometown crowd, but he said there is still work to do with his devastating fastball.

"I don't know if it's my best start," said the young power pitcher after his third career outing. "I wish I could have commanded my fastball better."

He allowed two earned runs on four hits in 61/3 innings to pick up his third win of the season. While those 100-plus pitches garnered the most attention, his secondary pitches were almost as impressive.

He dropped his curveball as slow as 81 mph. And he unleashed his slider, regularly reaching 93 mph.

"He threw a couple sliders at 93 mph," Martin said. "That's unheard of.

"It's a true slider, it's not a cutter. It's ridiculous, man. Guys that rear back and throw as hard as they can can't hit 93 mph. A 93-mph slider? That's tough to handle."

McDonald struggles again

Pitcher James McDonald (shoulder discomfort) had another rough rehabilitation outing, allowing four earned runs on six hits in six innings for Class AAA Indianapolis.

"Inconsistency again," Hurdle said.

In four starts for Indianapolis, McDonald is 1-3 with a 6.53 ERA. He is out of options, and his 30-day rehabilitation period ends Tuesday. The front office will meet today to discuss whether to activate him to the 25-man roster or designate him for assignment. The team could also explore a trade.

His rehabilitation clock could pause and start anew if another injury emerges.

First-round flair

By recalling catcher Tony Sanchez Friday, the Pirates now have eight first-round draft picks on their 25-man roster.

Sanchez (2009), Cole (2011), Pedro Alvarez (2008), Andrew McCutchen (2005) and Neil Walker (2004) were all Pirates draft picks. Jason Grilli (1997) was drafted by the San Francisco Giants, Bryan Morris (2006) was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers and Travis Snider (2006) was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays.

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Michael Sanserino: msanserino@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino. First Published June 23, 2013 4:00 AM


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