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Gerrit Cole Makes Strong MLB Debut, How Much More Should We Expect?

San Francisco Giants v Pittsburgh Pirates

What’s a fair amount of time for all parties involved to make a judgement on a professional baseball player? A game? A month? A season? … Multiple seasons? Wait until his entire career is complete?

This month the baseball world has gone gaga for Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig. They’re probably making room for the Cuban defector in Cooperstown as we speak.

With a lot less fanfare, Pirates rookie righty Gerrit Cole made his MLB debut Tuesday night vs. the Giants at PNC Park. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 was sharp, allowing two runs over 6+ innings in the Pirates’ 8-2 victory. Cole’s fastball topped out at 99 mph and he didn’t walk a batter. He even helped his own cause with a two-run single in his first big league at bat.

This is how Pittsburgh Post-Gazette columnist Ron Cook put it:

It seemed so much more significant. All of the other touted players, from Bonds to Alvarez, joined Pirates teams that were big losers with no apparent hope of ever winning. Cole’s Pirates — we can say that now — had the third-best record (38-26) in the National League after their win, which means they would be a playoff team if the postseason started today. Cole has a chance to be a part of something special, something even more special than just the franchise’s first winning season in 21 years.

If the playoffs started today the Pirates would, in fact, make the playoffs as one of the National League’s two Wild Card participants. Pitching is already a strength for the Buccos, as they’re third in ERA and first in Batting Average Against. Cole, who was a first-round pick by the Yankees back in 2008 but turned down their $4 million offer to attend UCLA, should only bolster the staff. Whether he can make it “special” remains to be seen.

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Obviously, unless you’re a time traveler from the future, you can’t draw conclusions from one start. In 68 innings at Triple-A Indianapolis Cole was 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA. Opponents were only batting .190 against him, which is solid. His 47 strikeouts along with 28 minor league walks this year don’t exactly jump off the page, though.

More than anything, should we be surprised when a guy who numerous scouts and front office personnel deemed worthy of the No. 1 overall pick came up to the big leagues and has success in his debut? That doesn’t seem too unreasonable, does it, even if Cole arrived in the bigs without the hype of other recent No. 1 overall picks like Bryce Harper or Stephen Strasburg.

If you’re a Pirates fan you probably cross your fingers and hope. The last two No. 1 overall picks by the franchise were Kris Benson, who was a decent pitcher for a couple years before his attention-seeking wife began to overshadow him, and then Bryan Bullington. The 2002 top pick was last seen playing in Japan after posting a 1-9 record with a 5.62 ERA in his brief MLB career.

However it pans out, Cole’s career won’t be defined by one start in June.

[Photo via Getty]

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