One of these days there will be another Spring Training game shown live on the television but today we’ll have to settle for another one on the radio. Washington’s Nationals and the Atlanta Braves meet in Grapefruit League action this afternoon from Lake Buena Vista, FL’s Champion Stadium at 1:05 PM EST with righty A.J. Cole on the mound for the Nats against the Braves’ Matt Wisler at the start.
Cole, 26, who is in camp competing for the fifth spot in the Nationals’ rotation, entered Spring Training as the front runner to fill out the rotation behind Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Tanner Roark, at least in part because he is out of options, but also because Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo and Co. in the front office in D.C. were impressed with what they say from the 2010 4th Round pick down the stretch last season.
“A.J. Cole pitched very, very well at the end of the season,” Rizzo explained in an MLB Network Radio interview in late January.
“You’ve got a guy with a sub-4.00 ERA and pitched down the stretch, his last eleven starts were great, and his last seven were really, really good.”
“He showed the promise that we’ve been looking for for the last couple years,” he added.
Cole posted 3.86 ERA, 5.19 FIP, 24 walks (4.87 BB/9), 41 Ks (8.32 K/9), and a .263/.367/.440 line against in eight starts and 44 1⁄3 IP in the Nationals’ rotation in 2017.
New Nats’ skipper Dave Martinez was impressed with Cole when he saw the right-hander up close for the first time this Spring, telling reporters he was bigger than he expected.
“He’s been solid,” Martinez said after watching Cole throw an early bullpen session.
“I didn’t realize he was that big. He’s big, strength-wise. I’m looking forward to watching him pitch, watching him compete. He’s competing for the fifth starter’s spot. But he looked great.”
“[He] was really letting it eat and the ball was coming out really good, so I’m excited to see him pitch.”
Cole gets his first start of the Spring in this afternoon...