Top prospect Gerrit Cole likely to debut with Pirates Tuesday

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CHICAGO -- The wait might soon be over for top prospect Gerrit Cole's major league debut.

Officially, the Pirates say they plan to use an "internal option" Tuesday to start against the San Francisco Giants. But all signs indicate Cole, a 22-year-old hard-throwing righty, will make his major league debut at PNC Park against the defending World Series champions.

The Pirates are in need of a starting pitcher Tuesday, following injuries to Jeanmar Gomez and Wandy Rodriguez, and the date is just one day after Cole is scheduled to throw for Class AAA Indianapolis.

It appears likely Cole will not make that start Monday and instead will pitch for the Pirates on Tuesday.

The front office has been waiting for Cole to put together a few dominant outings to ensure he is ready to handle major league hitters. He pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings Wednesday and pitched seven scoreless innings in his outing prior to that.

He has currently thrown 19 consecutive shutout innings. His Indianapolis ERA is 2.91 and his batting average against is .190. His strikeout numbers aren't off the charts -- 47 in 68 innings -- especially for a pitcher who can hit 99 mph on a radar gun.

By waiting until June to promote Cole, the Pirates delayed the start of his free agency until 2019. And they might have also delayed his arbitration eligibility until after the 2016 season. "Super Two" players are eligible for arbitration after two years of service time if they rank among the top 22 percent in total service in the group players with more than two but less than three years of service time.

That cutoff date will probably be sometime next week, though it won't be officially determined until after the season.

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Michael Sanserino: msanserino@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1722 and Twitter @msanserino.


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