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Sunday Notebook: Lambo, Cole’s Development and Hart’s Role

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Little Progress for Lambo

First baseman/outfielder Andrew Lambo was placed on the 15-day disabled list May 6 with plantar fasciitis in his left foot and has been in Bradenton since. There currently is no timetable for his return due to the nature of the injury.

General manager Neal Huntington said Sunday Lambo is dealing with “lingering pain” and “discomfort” in his foot.

“We’ve continued to work with him on that,” Huntington said. “The worst thing for him is to try to push through because it’s just going to linger all year.”

The 26-year-old played in 20 games for the Pirates before he was sent to the disabled list and hit just .040 in 27 plate appearances. Lambo’s activity has been limited because the injury continues to flare up and responds poorly to baseball work.

“He still feels it in daily life,” Huntington said. “He still feels it as we try to push through. We’re trying to keep the baseball activity going as best we can.”

Cole the Ace

The development of Gerrit Cole has been the most exciting aspect of watching the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2015. He leads the major leagues with 10 wins and a 1.71 ERA and is on the short list of early Cy Young Award candidates.

Cole, the No. 1 overall pick in 2011, has become the starter the Pirates likely hoped he would be when they drafted him four years ago.

“My hope is that he is never a finished product in his mind,” Huntington said. “And he is never finished product in our mind, and I don’t think he will be.”

Meaning, the Pirates hope Cole can continue to get better and better. With Cole’s work ethic and competitive nature, there’s a good chance Huntington’s hopes come to fruition.

“He’s always going to work to be special,” Huntington said. “And there are still some things he can do and we can do to help him get better and that’s what makes him so enjoyable and so much fun to think about where he can go.”

There is a good deal of baseball left to play as the season is only one-third of the way over, time in which Jeff Locke played himself out of the major-league rotation after becoming an All-Star in 2013. But Cole’s a little better than Locke.

The 24-year-old’s 2.36 FIP ranks fourth in baseball, boasted by his 9.96 K/9 and 2.04 BB/9 ratios. Striking nearly five hitters for each walk he issues indicates Cole’s success isn’t any sort of fluke in that regard.

In his second full season in the majors, Cole has added knowledge of how to pitch at the big league level with his skills to become one of baseball’s best pitchers.

“He certainly has worked hard to maximize his physical abilities to go with it,” Huntington said. “He’s got the character to go with it, he’s got the drive. He’s got a tremendous package of attributes that he gets the most out of on a daily basis. That’s why it’s come quickly.”

 

Hart’s Involvement

First baseman/outfielder Corey Hart was brought into the organization over the offseason as a potential platoon partner with Pedro Alvarez at first base. Hart, transitioning from his days as an everyday player into a role player, owns an .857 OPS in his career against left-handers who cause so much trouble for Alvarez.

The signing didn’t hold a lot of risk, and seemed to make sense.

But Hart started Sunday for the first time since May 16 and struck out twice in two plate appearances. He’s batting .186 on the season and has struck out 17 times in 43 at-bats.

The Pirates haven’t faced much left-handed starting pitching this season, which provides the best opportunity to include Hart in the lineup. But Sean Rodriguez has received more playing time at first base than Hart, even drawing starts against left-handers.

“It’s been a challenge for Corey to get rolling,” Huntington said. “And certainly we were thinking we would get more, but at the same time we completely understand why it has been a challenge for Corey.”

Sunday’s game started a stretch in which the Pirates are slated to face left-handed pitchers in five of seven games. In turn, Hart should receive more opportunities to play.

One way or the other, decisions made with his playing time and his requisite performance will show all anyone needs to know regarding his status with the Pirates.

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