BRADENTON, Fla. -- Gerrit Cole may not yet be ready for Major League competition. But he is definitely too good for international competition.
Cole blew down the first six Spanish batters he faced on strikes in pitching the first three innings of the Pirates' 10-0 victory over World Baseball Classic entry Spain on Tuesday at McKechnie Field, then assessed his chances of making the Bucs' staff with impressive simplicity.
"I'm still here," said Cole, the Pirates' No. 1 prospect, according to MLB.com. "They haven't yet told me I haven't [got a chance], and as long as I'm still here, I guess I do."
Cole had what could have been considered a nothing-to-gain and everything-to-lose outing on Tuesday. If he did well, hey, it's only Spain. If he struggled, hey -- against Spain?
"I treated it like every other start," Cole said. "I tried to nail the delivery in the bullpen and take it out into the game. My location and stuff was good, and that's always a good thing. I would've liked to have carried it better into the third."
The Spaniards got Cole's attention in that third. One-out singles by Yasser Gomez and Gabriel Suarez put the right-hander in two-on hot water. Cole responded by picking Suarez off first and, after walking Daniel Figueroa to extend the threat, getting Paco Figueroa on an inning-ending grounder to second.
"They got a ball through the hole, and the hit-and-run [by Suarez] did not work out in our favor," Cole said. "But I was fortunate to get out of it."
Cole immediately looked forward to more of the same.
"I'm just trying to keep my delivery in check and trying to be consistent with fastball location," he said. "I'm trying to get a feel for changing speeds, and trusting the guy behind the plate, [the catcher]."
Manager Clint Hurdle had no problem looking beyond the competition in evaluating -- and raving about -- Cole's performance.
"Yes, there is some type of sliding scale," Hurdle said, alluding to the prism through which to assess Cole's stuff. "I can't get caught up in that. He took care of what he had to, pounding the zone, throwing strikes and being effective. He went out there with a purpose, and I loved the rhythm, loved the downhill angle. It was a very good day for Cole."
Karstens' productive session has Bucs pleased
BRADENTON, Fla. -- Jeff Karstens took a shot at the perception that he is likely to open the regular season on the disabled list. The Pirates right-hander actually took 30 shots at that -- the 30 pitches he threw in facing his spring's first batters in a Tuesday morning workout at Pirate City.
The two-inning exercise -- first straight batting practice, second simulated game -- was a significant step away from the right biceps tendinitis that derailed his training.
"The second inning was better -- he settled in and just threw strikes," said pitching coach Ray Searage, who made the commute from McKechnie Field to oversee Karstens' drill. "The first inning, he was jumpy; the competitiveness came out in him, and he was trying to make perfect pitches."
"I felt good in the first, too, but was just a little too amped up. It was great to finally face some batters," said Karstens.
Karstens threw to catcher Miguel Perez, with Minor Leaguers Barrett Barnes and Jeremy Farrell taking turns facing him in the batting cage.
Karstens won't throw for two days, then he'll repeat the same drill on Friday. On that occasion, according to Searage, the right-hander will pitch a more realistic simulated inning, without the cage around batters or the protective L-screen in front of the mound.
Karstens remained optimistic about being ready for the start of the season. With an off-day following the April 1 opener and A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez and James McDonald penciled into the top of the rotation, ideally, Karstens' season would not start until April 5, still 4 1/2 weeks away.
Still, manager Clint Hurdle kept that possibility open-ended.
"Jeff had a good day today," Hurdle said. "We'll evaluate him more after his next time out, and after that, we can map out a competitive schedule for him."
"There wasn't much going on, was there? I might've been able to slide in there for an inning at third, with Cole on the mound." -- Hurdle, on having given a start at third base to Gaby Sanchez, who in five innings did not have a single ball hit to him. That would've required Spanish batters pulling Cole (and Stolmy Pimentel, another hard thrower who followed him to the mound).
• Jeff Locke and McDonald started the Pirates' split-squad games on Friday, and since Locke will pitch on Wednesday, J-Mac will face the Rays on five days' rest on Thursday at McKechnie Field.
• Russell Martin (sore right shoulder) continues his throwing program with good results, and he has been penciled in for his catching debut on Saturday, when the Pirates will host the Twins. Martin could be ready a little sooner, but the Bucs would be hesitant to catch him in a night game, which Friday's home date against the Orioles will be.
• Cole giggled sincerely when asked to recall his personal best for consecutive strikeouts.
"Oh, I don't keep track of stuff like that," Cole said.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.