Gerrit Cole likes to talk about being consistent when he takes the hill. His actions, in this case, line up quite nicely with his words.
Cole (5-1) scattered three hits and two walks while striking out a season-high-tying seven over five frames as Class A Advanced Bradenton blanked Fort Myers, 6-0, on Thursday.
In each of the 11 starts since April 20 for the No. 2 Pirates prospect's, Cole has gone either five or six innings. He's never allowed more than three earned runs and he's struck out between five and seven batters in nine of his 13 totals starts this year.
"I'm just focused on being consistent every time out, on putting up good outings and staying within myself," he said. "You always feel good [after a start like that]."
Thursday's effort was the third scoreless start of at least five innings this season by MLB.com's No. 8 overall prospect, and it was the third time he'd struck out seven.
It was also Cole's first scoreless outing since May 23 and probably his strongest statistical performance since striking out six over six shutout innings in an April 30 win over Jupiter.
The right-hander said his secondary offerings mostly worked as out pitches Thursday.
"I had a good slider, a good changeup and a good fastball, and just used them accordingly," said the 21-year-old. "I'd say the slider was really good."
The Florida State League All-Star selection brought his season ERA down to 2.55, good for fourth in the league. The first overall pick in last year's Draft is also averaging slightly better than a strikeout per inning, with 69 in 67 innings and only 21 walks. Cole is sixth in the FSL in strikeouts and third in WHIP at 1.10.
In his first professional season, Cole hasn't had seemingly any problems justifying the hype that comes along with being the first overall Draft pick. He said part of his smooth transition to pro ball was due to the fact that he tried not to lend any added significance to pitching at that level.
"I've just been getting acclimated to the whole thing really," he said. "You can't prepare for it, you just dive in. There was a little bit of an adjusting time there at the beginning, but I've kind of gotten into a groove a little bit, stayed consistent, stayed within myself."
In fact, the California native has thrown even better against pro hitters than he did against Pac-12 bats in his senior season at UCLA. He went 6-8 with a 3.31 ERA in 16 starts as a junior for the Bruins.
On Thursday, Andy Vazquez tripled and drove in two runs while No. 14 Pirates prospect Alex Dickerson went 2-for-4 with a double and two runs scored to lead the offense.
Daniel McCutchen followed Cole with two one-hit innings of relief, and Doug Salinas and Quinton Miller worked a scoreless frame apiece to lock down the shutout for the Marauders.