Dunlap: Gerrit Cole Will Be Just Fine

PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – I am, make no mistake, in the overreaction business. But leave it to me to have the perspective here — crazy as that sounds.

What I heard seemingly all night Monday and through the early portion of the day on Tuesday was downright distressing. It was unneeded strain that you people put on yourselves.

My gosh, how do you survive? How do you make it day to day? How do you carry on with your lives and keep any veneer of regularity and normalcy acting so irrationally?

Gerrit Cole had one bad inning.

Gerrit Cole lost one game this season.

Gerrit Cole — because he wears his emotions on his sleeve — got a little perturbed.

You know what I think?

Well, two things: Gerrit Cole will be just fine this season and the amount of overreaction in the aftermath of Cole’s less-than-spotless outing in the season opener is mind-numbing.

You can go ahead and focus on that fifth inning during Cole’s 76-pitch, 2017 debut as the Boston Red Sox put up all their runs — five — in a win against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

You can call Cole a hothead for the way he reacted or talk about that inexcusable fastball he left bellybutton high to rookie Andrew Benintendi who turned it around and put it in the seats.

Tell me all about Cole’s lack of mental toughness or how the guy isn’t an ace.

You can have your opinion. Here is mine: I will ride with Gerrit Cole every single day. I will trust him each time he takes the ball.

Oh, and did I mention it was one game — a game in which he was opposing the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner and also a game in which Cole’s offense didn’t necessarily do him any favors for the first seven innings.

Did I happen to mention that Cole’s manager Clint Hurdle, in my estimation, put the pitcher in a self-imposed position of less-than-optimal strength before he even threw so much as one pitch against Boston on Monday?

How so, do you ask?

I will tell you — by penciling Francisco Cervelli into the starting lineup to catch Cole.

For an organization steeped in analytics and bound by the numbers, it feels like the Pirates ignore the reality that Cole is simply much better when Chris Stewart catches him.

When Cervelli catches games that Cole starts, Cole has a 3.45 ERA and the opposition hits .279.

When Stewart catches games that Cole starts, Cole has a 2.65 ERA and the opposition hits .236.

How do you ignore that? Because it is Opening Day and Cervelli is your “starting” catcher? Well, Game 1 counts the same as Game 85, Game 123 or Game 162. You play to win no matter what day it is.

Tell me how Cervelli should catch games that Cole pitches when both he and Stewart are healthy. Your answer is that he shouldn’t.  I’d love to know why Clayton Kershaw, Noah Syndergaard and Jon Lester can have “personal catchers” but the idea that Cole — a man the Pirates have so much invested in from a “he-needs-to-pitch-really-well-for-us-to-succeed” standpoint — cannot have Stewart solely catch his games?

What I saw from Cole on Monday was a guy with lights-out stuff the first four innings and then done-in by a quirky bunt play that flipped the order, a misplay by a guy learning a new position and it all steered its way into one bad inning.

That was it.

What I saw was a guy with much more positive than negative.

So go ahead and get all bothered if you would like.

Me? No way. I’m pretty sure Gerrit Cole will be just fine this season.

Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at colin.dunlap@cbsradio.com. Check out his bio here.

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