It's said that the transition to Double-A is the biggest jump in the Minor Leagues. Pirates pitching prospect Gerrit Cole is more than ready to make it.
After Cole went at least five innings in 11 straight outings while posting a 2.55 ERA for Bradenton in the Class A Advanced Florida State League, the Pirates had seen enough. He'll make his Eastern League debut when the Altoona Curve, Pittsburgh's Double-A affiliate, host New Britain on Wednesday evening.
Pittsburgh made the UCLA right-hander the top pick in the 2011 Draft and signed him to an $8 million bonus just minutes before the Aug. 15 deadline. Assigned to Bradenton following Spring Training, the 21-year-old Cole eased his way into the routine of pitching every fifth day as a pro.
"That's been the biggest adjustment from college," Cole said at a Tuesday afternoon press conference in Altoona. "Being at the park every day, pitching every fifth day -- you have to treat it like a job and get your work done. With fewer days between starts, managing the off days is a little different than I was used to.
"I feel like I've gotten into a better groove than when the season started. It's been both hard and fun. It's a great challenge."
MLB.com's No. 8 prospect picked up his first win at Jupiter on April 30, holding the Hammerheads to one hit and one walk while fanning six over six scoreless frames. Cole has won each of his four decisions since then, including a defeat of the St. Lucie Mets, who own the best record in the Minor Leagues, on May 12.
"I haven't really changed anything with my pitches [since turning pro]," Cole said. "It's been more a process of learning how to use them -- how they play differently against professional hitters with wooden bats."
Cole said he has no plans to change his approach in the Eastern League.
"I try not to look ahead. I'll just do what I was doing in Bradenton, and if it doesn't work we'll take it from there. I don't want to anticipate changes before they're necessary."
With UCLA teammate Trevor Bauer, who was taken two picks after Cole, already thriving in Triple-A -- he leads the Minor Leagues in wins and ranks second in strikeouts -- Cole was asked if he found it hard to be patient on his path to the Majors.
"You just try to focus on what you can control," he said of the D-backs prospect. "I'm sure the situation in his organization is a little different than it is with the Pirates. I'm just trying to take care of my business."
Asked what he thought his greatest strength as a pitcher was, Cole didn't mention his high-90s fastball, high-80s slider or plus changeup.
"I think, if you asked a lot of players what their biggest strength is, they'd say their competitiveness. That's the way I feel -- I kind of become a different guy on the mound.
"I really just enjoy playing and trying to be my best."
Cole is slated to take his next step toward the Major Leagues when the Curve take on the Rock Cats at 7:00 p.m. ET Wednesday. The game will be streamed live on MiLB.TV.