Pirates' struggling Cole to pitch against Rockies (Jun 13, 2017)

BY AP • June 13, 2017

PITTSBURGH -- The first round of the 2017 MLB Draft unfolded on Monday night, with a new group of young players becoming the future faces of their franchises.

Tuesday, a former No. 1 overall draft pick will try to get himself back on track as 2011 top draft pick Gerrit Cole takes the mound for the Pittsburgh Pirates against the Colorado Rockies.

Cole, now 26 and one of the elder statesmen in a young Pittsburgh rotation, was one of the best pitchers in all of baseball in 2015, when he was a 19-game winner and an All-Star. Cole had an injury-riddled 2016 that saw his ERA climb to a career-worst 3.88 ERA in just 21 starts. Finally healthy coming into 2016, the expectation was that Cole would regain his All-Star form.

So far, it hasn't happened. After a poor first start, Cole had a good stretch going, running a stretch of eight straight quality starts from early April until May 17. Since then, he's hit a deep rut. Over his last four starts, Cole has a 10.71 ERA and hasn't pitched out of the fifth inning once. His season numbers are now 4-6 with a 4.38 ERA. That's not what teams are looking for from top draft selections.

"He's trying to find ways to sharpen his skills, whether it's the mental part of it -- the mental toughness, the mental ability, the program -- or the physical skills -- repeating the delivery, throwing pitches," manager Clint Hurdle said Monday. "I see a guy that's trying to be the best pitcher he can be. That's his commitment daily. Where that takes him, he's still on that journey."

Cole is 2-1 with a 2.95 ERA in three career starts against Colorado.

The Rockies aren't one of the teams lauding their new first-round draft pick. That's because they don't have one. The Rockies forfeited their first-round pick by signing Ian Desmond to a five-year, $70 million contract last offseason.

The move hasn't necessarily paid off thus far. Desmond has a .690 OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging), down nearly 100 points from his 2016 season with the Texas Rangers, despite the move to a hitter-friendly environment in Colorado.

In fact, Desmond hasn't even been able to nail down a full-time role. He missed the first month of the season with a hand injury and has just 37 starts to his credit while rotating with Gerardo Parra and Mark Reynolds.

Particularly missing is his lack of home runs. Desmond has hit just three this season. With the Rockies playing just three home series in June, it's not going to be easy to pile them up.

It's possible that the Rockies could move Desmond back to shortstop, where he played from 2011 to 2015 in Washington.

On the hill for the Rockies will be the surging Tyler Chatwood (6-7, 4.38 ERA), who has won three consecutive starts. Chatwood has faced the Pirates just once. He gave up one run in a six-inning no-decision last May.



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