Taking a major-league mound for the first time, Gerrit Cole wasted no time filling his highlight quota.
Two years ago, the Pittsburgh Pirates took Cole first overall out of UCLA, where he struck out 346 batters over three seasons. On Tuesday, he did the same against Gregor Blanco, punching out the the San Francisco Giants leadoff man on three pitches.
Cole also connected for a two-RBI single on his very first at at-bat, giving the Pirates their first two runs in an 8-2 win. He easily outdueled former Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum for the victory, finishing with two strikeouts, no walks, two earned runs and seven hits through 6 1/3 innings.
While his overreliance on his fastball could be a concern going forward, the 22-year-old is a potential star on a club chasing its first winning season since 1992.
“He was impressive,” said UCLA coach John Savage, who watched the game with his team after practice. “I thought he filled up the strike zone. He didn’t get ahead of himself. I think you saw a potential No. 1 starter growing up, maturing. I contribute that to going to college, what he went through here, being a Friday night guy for three years. I think he’s just grown up too.”