A.J. Cole hears all the rumors. The addition of a pitcher like free agent Jake Arrieta could change the Nationals’ plans when it comes to the rotation, and keep Cole out of the fifth spot, but the right-hander told MLB Network Radio hosts Dan Graca and Kevin Kennedy last night he’s just concentrating on what he can control as he prepares for the start of the 2018 campaign.
“I don’t try to pay too much attention to that stuff right now,” Cole explained. “I just try to go out and get my work in and show them everything I have, because I want that fifth spot and I’m going to show them everything I have to earn that spot and help them win. I want to help this team win and I know I can help them win.”
Cole, 26, entered Spring Training as the frontrunner for the fifth spot in the Nats’ rotation, he’s out of options, which will factor into the decision-making, and he has impressed new Nationals’ manager Dave Martinez with his work in Florida.
“Look, do we think he’s our fifth starter? Yeah,” the Nationals’ skipper told reporters, as quoted by MASN’s Mark Zuckerman before Cole’s initial Grapefruit League outing of 2018 last week.
#Nationals pitcher A.J. Cole shrugs off the early playoff exits in recent years, "We're just going to go out there and have some fun. Play the game like we know how to play." pic.twitter.com/w20cwmKFbg— MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (@MLBNetworkRadio) March 6, 2018
“But he has to compete, and he knows that. I want all these guys to compete every day.”
Cole makes his second start of the Spring this afternoon, after he held the Atlanta Braves scoreless over two innings of work last Thursday, striking out three of the nine batters he faced.
Cole said last night that he came into camp knowing that there was a big opportunity, so he started his preparation before he even arrived in West Palm Beach, and he’s applying what he learned last season, when he impressed down the stretch.
“I took the time from last year, of everything I’ve learned from playing with [Max] Scherzer and [Stephen Strasburg], and all those big guys, and I went into the offseason and worked real hard on getting my offspeed ready for early in camp and I’ve done a pretty good job on that, and I’m feeling pretty confident,” Cole said.
He makes his second start of the Spring this afternoon, in the Nationals’ matchup with the Houston Astros, which is being shown live on MASN at 1:05 PM EST.