I’ve spoken to Gerrit Cole twice now and what’s come across loud and clear is how much he loves talking about pitching.
Cole responded with a dissertation on his old grip vs. his new grip, then excitedly told me about a drill he used to work on with Burnett and Charlie Morton. They placed an L-screen a ways out and the object was to nick the top edge of the screen as the ball began its downward turn. And he sounded as excited to talk about this with me—a guy who threw a curveball in a game one time when he was 12—as he might be with say, Sandy Koufax.
That’s the kind of personality that is built to lead pitching staffs, one who is willing to share thoughts and ideas freely with the like-minded people in his clubhouse, all in the hopes that they can make each other better.
And that side came out of Cole again on Thursday as he answered questions from reporters at spring training for the first time. Cole was asked what was being said in an animated conversation he had in the bullpen one day earlier with a group that included Aaron Boone, pitching coach Matt Blake and a few other coaches.
“We were just talking about, well a handful of things,” Cole began. “I guess to kind of summarize it, it would be like how I try to see the (strike) zone and then what my intent is with different pitches.
“For example, positioning of the catcher to kind of give me a better idea of where the strike zone is. And then also communications with the catcher, communication just in general as a staff. Like what is going to be our priority when we’re throwing a fastball into a left-hander vs. a fastball away to a right-hander. Where am I going to kind of guide my miss if I’m not going to hit the spot in the right location."
“And some of those things are just kind of core principles to my stuff and how to get the best action out of my pitches. But (then) you start to kind of dive into, ‘Well what’s the catcher seeing?’ And ‘Is this miss in this location a comfortable spot to miss to this hitter specifically.
“So we were just kind of, like I said, generally trying to help me identify like where the zone is, what I like to see, and where I like to miss with my pitches and that was kind of the gist of it.”
Seriously, the guy was loving this.
And then here’s what he said when asked which of his new teammates he’d like to learn from.
“I would like to learn from everybody, but specifically I really admire (Masahiro) Tanaka,” Cole said. “How can you not? I mean, he’s been just like the quintessential professional here in New York for his entire stay. He dealt with a lot of challenges coming from Japan in the middle of his career to a completely different side of the world. So there’s probably some perspective to be gained there.
“And then, you know, his style is a lot different than mine and (the rest of the staff) in terms of true fastball, kind of, attack. So pitching with (Zach Greinke and Dallas Keuchel) the last couple years, you can always learn from the flip side perspective a little bit. I think (Tanaka’s) delivery is really consistent, so I’m really looking forward to learning like how his thought process is on the mound and maybe some drills that he does to keep himself just so centered and so consistent over his delivery.
“And watch how he carries himself around here because he does a really professional job at it.”
Often times reporters and fans just want to know what a player was thinking in a certain situation. So far Cole seems well equipped—and willing—to answer that question down to the geekiest detail.