Posted on August 30, 2016 by Bryan Zarpentine
The Pittsburgh Pirates placed starting pitcher Gerrit Cole on the 15-day DL Monday night. The move came soon after Cole was examined by a shoulder and elbow specialist in Los Angeles. The Pirates knew over the weekend that Cole would not make his scheduled start Monday night against the Chicago Cubs, but the DL stint confirms that Pittsburgh’s ace is nowhere close to ready to return to the mound. The Pirates officially list “posterior inflammation of the right elbow” as the reason for Cole going to the DL.
Cole has had four rough outings in a row, leading to a 6.08 ERA in the month of August. However, he didn’t inform the team until after his most recent start on August 24 that he was experiencing discomfort in his elbow. Pain in the “posterior” of his elbow signals that Cole’s elbow doesn’t have any structural damage, meaning rest is likely to be the primary form of treatment. Cole will be eligible to return from the DL on September 9, but it remains to be seen if he’ll be ready to return at that point.
The absence of Cole from Pittsburgh’s rotation for the time being means the Pirates have five completely different starters from the five who started the season in the rotation. In addition to Cole’s injury, Jon Niese and Francisco Liriano have been traded, while Jeff Locke and Juan Nicasio have been moved to the bullpen.
Taking Cole’s spot on Monday against the Cubs was lefty Steven Brault, who was making his third career major league start. Brault lasted just four innings, allowing three runs (two earned) on five hits, keeping the Pirates in a game they would ultimately lose in 13 innings.
The presence of Brault gives the Pirates three rookies in their starting rotation alongside Jameson Taillon and Chad Kuhl. Taillon becomes the de-facto ace of the staff with Cole on the shelf, while Kuhl has been steady in his eight starts, posting a 3.50 ERA.
Pittsburgh may entertain adding another rookie into the rotation in Tyler Glasnow, who recently came back from his own stint on the DL, only to be immediately sent back to triple-A. Glasnow made two starts for the Pirates earlier this year before going to the DL with shoulder discomfort. If Pittsburgh puts him back into the rotation it’ll likely be at the expense of Brault.
Rounding out the Pittsburgh rotation is a pair of veterans in Ryan Vogelsong and Ivan Nova. Vogelsong has pitched well in five starts since returning from facial fractures he suffered in May on a line drive that struck him in the face. He has a 2.48 ERA in those five starts. Meanwhile, Nova is 4-0 with a 2.87 ERA in five starts since being traded to the Pirates.
Amidst Cole’s recent struggles, the rest of the Pittsburgh rotation has managed to step up its game to help keep the Pirates in the thick of the National League wild card hunt. With Cole going on the DL and no return date in place, Pittsburgh’s starters will have to continue to hold down the fort without their ace. The Pirates trail the St. Louis Cardinals by a game and a half for the second wild card spot, with the Mets and Marlins 2.5 games back of St. Louis. However, when Cole will return to help with the effort and whether the Pirates can capture the wild card without him remain to be seen.