INDIANAPOLIS -- Gerrit Cole suddenly perked up and leaned forward on the couch in the Indianapolis Indians clubhouse. Something had caught his eye.
Cole laughed and stood up.
"What are you laughing about?" asked Indians coach Dean Treanor.
Cole pointed to the ticker at the bottom of the TV screen, where ESPN was reporting the 22-year-old pitcher would make his major league debut against the San Francisco Giants Tuesday night at PNC Park.
It was news to him.
"I think it was a very poorly kept secret," Treanor admitted with a smile on Sunday.
At long last, Cole, the No. 1 pick in the 2011 MLB draft, is Pittsburgh-bound. He took a quick bullpen session in Indianapolis Sunday, then left early during the Indians' 13-inning win against the Norfolk Tides at Victory Field to fly to Pittsburgh.
"This is a big day for the Pirates," Treanor said. "I know the city of Pittsburgh has been asking for him. He's earned this."
Cole, a 6-foot-4 right-hander, has anchored the Indians' starting rotation this season with a 5-3 record and 2.91 ERA in 12 starts. And the Pirates came calling at the perfect time.
Cole has held opponents scoreless for 19 consecutive innings and hasn't allowed an extra-base hit in 13 innings. The success is no surprise.
After going 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA in spring training this year, many expected Cole to start the season with the Pirates.
But Pirates general manager Neal Huntington instead announced Cole's return to AAA. After consulting coaches, Huntington said Cole would benefit from more seasoning in the minors, and he said Cole had been given a checklist of things to work on. At the top of the checklist: improving fastball command and developing his changeup and curveball.
"Obviously, he was disappointed coming out of spring training -- you like that in him," Treanor said. "But he's worked very hard here, has been very open to learning, asking questions, so this was an invaluable experience for him.
"I think in his heart he knows that he needed this time here. I have to commend him for the way he worked here."
On his weekly radio show Sunday, Huntington said it took "extraordinary circumstances" with the health of the Pirates' rotation to present this opportunity for Cole.
"There's certainly discomfort because in an ideal world, it is probably a little early," Huntington said. "There are still some things he needs to work on. The worst reason you can bring a prospect to the major leagues is because of a need, and we've been able to avoid that until now.
"[The question] is not 'Is he ready to be a big leaguer?' It's 'Is he ready to contribute to a playoff caliber team?' "
The nerves will certainly run high for the rookie on Tuesday. Indianapolis pitching coach Tom Filer said there simply is no way to be calm stepping on the mound to face your first major league hitter.
"There ain't nothing that can prepare you for your first game," Filer said. "I don't care what they say. There's nothing out there."
Filer remembers his debut, everything down to the date: June 8, 1982.
"That must have been 30-some years ago yesterday," Filer said. "I was pitching for the Cubs in my hometown of Philadelphia. I just remember Bobby Dernier being up first and I was just telling myself, 'Let it go.' I'm not sure what he did, but all I know is I let it go as hard as I could."
The Indianapolis coaching staff sent Cole off with handshakes and only a few words of wisdom.
"This is the start that he's going to remember forever," Treanor said, then he grinned. "I'm just hoping for rain here in Indianapolis on Tuesday so we can watch it."
First Published June 10, 2013 4:00 AM