During his first Grapefruit League outing of 2017, A.J. Cole managed to hit 95 on one of the not-always-reliable radar guns in the Minnesota Twins’ Spring Training home in Fort Myers. For Cole, 25, who averaged 90.3 mph with his fastball in the majors in 2016, the increased velocity, even if it was a few ticks off, was a welcome sign.
Cole once again did what he could to add weight over the winter, and came into camp at just under 230 lbs, looking to build on what he’d done in previous offseasons to try to prepare for the grind of a full professional season.
“Last year I got my weight, I stayed with it for most of the year, towards the end I dropped a little bit,” the 2010 Nationals’ 4th Round pick told reporters this winter.
“So this year, being more used to that weight, I’m still putting on weight, I know how to manage a little better, so throughout the year I’ll probably be able to maintain it better and work with it better.”
Asked if there was a noticeable benefit to bulking up, Cole said there was.
“It seemed to help me,” he said. “Not really as tired throughout the year, but going on the second year I’ll probably notice it a lot more.”
Dusty Baker noticed the uptick in Cole’s velocity and he told reporters, as quoted by Washington Post writer Jorge Castillo, that he thought the extra weight on the 6’5’’ right-hander’s frame could be helping.
“I heard this is how he threw when he first got here,” Baker said. “So, perhaps, he’s back to where he was.”
Cole gave up four hits, a walk and four earned runs in his start against the Twins, and followed that up with a rough outing against the Miami Marlins last Friday which saw him give up six hits, a walk and four runs (three earned) in three innings in Jupiter, FL’s Roger Dean Stadium.
This afternoon, in a 1:05 PM EST start in West Palm Beach, FL’s Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, Cole faces off against the Nationals’ NL East rivals again when the Marlins visit for a Grapefruit League matchup in Washington’s Spring home.
Here’s the lineup that will back Cole up at the start of today’s matchup: