Now that we’re onto Day Four of the Andrew McCutchen Injury Crisis, I’ve moved back into pessimism after yesterday’s optimism that the injury wasn’t an oblique problem. The main source of it is this Mike Petriello FanGraphs piece, which is ostensibly about how badly McCutchen’s injury screws the Pirates down the stretch, but also which discusses different ribcage injuries of recent players and recovery timelines. The bottom line is that even if McCutchen tries to rush back onto the field quickly enough to avoid a disabled list placement, it’s really hard to imagine him playing at an Andrew McCutchen type level just a week removed from a rib fracture. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine him playing at a high level quicker than a month after an injury like this, which was the original timetable laid out on Tuesday.
Of course, I could be very wrong about this; we don’t really know much about the severity of the injury, we obviously don’t know how much progress McCutchen has made since Sunday, and McCutchen is a world class athlete, and so all of our own opinions of, “One time I strained a rib playing softball and dangit if it didn’t take a full year to feel quite right!” are pretty invalid here. Still, the nature of the injury and the fact that it was either caused or (more likely) aggravated by swinging a bat make me feel like this is a situation where optimism is just a set-up for disappointment. Obviously I hope I’m wrong.
Unfortunately, this is not the only piece of injury news that Pirate fans have to come to grips with today. Gerrit Cole made his second rehab start with Indianapolis last night, and to say it went poorly would be an understatement. I watched his first two innings last night and thought that besides a few nice changeups, he looked a little bit off. His first fastball was 96, but it only went above that maybe once or twice in the first two innings, instead sitting between 94-96. That would be fine for most pitchers, but it seemed odd for Gerrit Cole. I left for my own softball game at that point, thinking that maybe the velocity was down because of a problem with the Victory Field radar gun, since Cole didn’t really look awful or anything.
That changed. Cole’s final line was bad: he gave up five runs on ten hits in four innings, and quite a few of the hits were of the “solidly struck” variety. Even worse, his velocity dipped down into the low 90s as the start wore on. Cole claimed it was intentional, but given that he also described the day after his first rehab start as, “brutal,” it’s awfully hard to not be concerned. I don’t want to say, “He’s not going to pitch for the Pirates again this year,” because there are seven weeks left in the season and the fact that he’s out there pitching right now means that he’s obviously made some progress, but geez, it’s hard to believe he’s going to be back in the next week or so given the results of that start last night.