Washington Nationals: A Weak Start For A.J. Cole


With an uncertain role on the Washington Nationals Roster, A.J. Cole’s start Sunday did little to clarify anything. For Cole, command is an issue.

Sunday was not the best audition for Washington Nationals pitcher A.J. Cole.

In the second game of the Grapefruit League, the Nats sent mostly a backup lineup over to Fort Myers to face the Minnesota Twins. Anthony Rendon was the lone everyday starter to make the trip while most of the expected bench grabbed playing time.

Cole took the mound against the Twins Trevor May and struggled. Given the chance to throw two innings, Cole could not get out of the second. In total, he faced ten batters tossing a whopping 48 pitches.

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Eddie Rosario singled to right for the Twins. A Chris Gimenez single scored Rosario on a play reeking of Spring Training. Jason Castro homered and Byron Buxton walked. Day over for Cole.

The problem is simple. Cole would get ahead of a hitter 0-2 then nibble the next few pitches. Get behind a batter and make a mistake.

Unless you were there, as there was no video of the game to see live, it is impossible to tell whether Cole hit his spots. Jose Lobaton—a fantastic game caller—caught him. Two players on the same page, or should be.

Yet, Cole seemed to lack confidence with his pitches. He did strike out two. Somehow, he only walked one. However, he averaged 4.8 pitches-per-batter. Next time out, he must be more efficient. You cannot wait for big league hitters to make mistakes, set the pace and go.

On the upside—after gaining weight this winter—Cole reached 95 on the stadium radar gun on his fastball.

Elsewhere, Vance Worley made is debut against his old team and pitched all right. Nervous in the first of his two innings, he settled down in his second and pitched a scoreless fourth. The box score does not look pretty, but he settled in nicely after a run and two hits on his debut inning.

Erick Fedde twirled two perfect innings against mostly prospects. He fanned two and walked nobody. For both Worley and Fedde, the next time pitching is key for their success. They have something to build on after the 5-2 loss to the Twins.

Austin Voth made his debut in the eighth, allowing a hit.

Non-Roster Invite Grant Green bolstered his bid to make a team. In three plate appearances, he drew two walks. He managed the count well and forced the Twins to throw him strikes. They did not.

Michael Taylor stole a base in the third after a single. He earned the start in center field and, after playing Saturday against the New York Mets, is one-for-four this spring.

Next: Carlos Paula Broke Washington's Color Barrier

The road swing goes to Jupiter Monday for the St. Louis Cardinals. We will see who makes the trip with the West Palm Beach opener Tuesday.