It's been a while since Taylor Cole felt like he was The Man
on the mound. He doesn't have to worry about that anymore.
The Blue Jays prospect gave up two hits over five innings to extend his scoreless streak to 26 on Sunday as short-season Vancouver posted a 4-0, 11-inning win over Eugene.
Cole has allowed just one run over 35 innings in seven starts for a 0.26 ERA. In other words, these outstanding starts should feel like just another day at the office for Cole (3-0). The thing is, they don't.
"I try to reflect on these whenever I have them," the 22-year-old right-hander said. "By sitting back and looking at it, it allows you to feel more confident in what you're doing. At the same time, I don't want to be content because that's when you start to limit yourself. I still want to make something more special."
Cole's streak could have ended in the first inning. After forcing Ronnie Richardson to ground out, he plunked two of the next three batters. He escaped by getting Rodney Daal to line out to second but took it as a sign that he might not have his best stuff.
"It was one of those days at the start when everything wasn't quite right, mechanics-wise. Nothing really locked in," Cole said. "I hit a few guys who were on top of the plate. I think I hit one guy with a slider on the kneecap. Anyways, I settled down a little bit and the guys made the plays behind me, and we were able to kind of get things going again."
The Brigham Young product didn't allow more than one baserunner over his final four innings, thanks to quality fastballs and changeups along with sliders "that were effective when I needed them to be."
In all, Cole retired the leadoff batter in all five innings, something he acknowledged was a focus this season.
"I always want to get that first guy out, first and foremost, because anything after that, whether it's a double, a triple, whatever, all you have to do is get two [outs]," he explained. "So if I can get that first guy and set the tone, it makes my job much easier."
The strategy has worked and the results continue to be there for Cole. His ERA would lead the Northwest League if he hadn't missed time due to an oblique injury.
Still, it's a marked improvement from the 5.88 ERA he compiled last season in 11 appearances, including eight starts, for the Canadians. After spending two years away from baseball while on a church mission and being selected in the 29th round of the 2011 Draft, Cole said it's good to be recognized as a dominant pitcher again.
"I wouldn't really say that I was ignored, but before that, I wasn't really in any kind of spotlight," he said. "That feeling like you're the man, I haven't had that in long a time. I quite honestly didn't have a good year last year, but it feels like everything's on a slightly bigger scale now. Not to be egotistical at all, but this is a good feeling."
Vancouver came away with the win after Kellen Sweeney and Balbino Fuenmayor both drove in a pair of runs in the 11th. Fuenmayor, who's spent parts of the last three seasons with the Canadians, homered and finished a triple shy of the cycle. It was his first three-hit game since June 27 after collecting three hits in his previous seven contests.
"He's a great guy," Cole said. "No matter if he's 4-for-4 or 0-for-4, he treats the guys the same. He's very consistent in that regard. I know he hasn't been the same the last month, but his success today was huge and is a sign of what he can do."