BRADENTON, Fla. -- The Bucs plugged in a new battery on Wednesday. Gerrit Cole and his spring ERA both liked the connection.
In the start against the Blue Jays, a 4-1 Pirates loss, Cole was paired in game conditions for the first time with Francisco Cervelli, and the two hit it off well.
"It was good. I told him I wasn't going to shake him off. I wanted to see how he was going to use my stuff, and maybe get a better feel for how he wants to call a game," Cole said following a two-inning stint he finished with a flourish.
After issuing a two-out walk in the first to Daric Barton, Cole entered ace mode, retiring the last four men he faced, three on strikes.
He gave up one run in the first -- and only one, thanks to Cervelli. After Dalton Pompey had advanced to third on Dioner Navarro's scoring grounder, Cole buried a pitch to Barton. Cervelli darted to his right to block the ball, keeping Pompey on third, where he remained stranded.
When the play was called Martin-esque -- a reference to the very athletic Russell Martin -- Clint Hurdle's eyes lit up.
"Yeah. We've seen [Cervelli] do it," the manager said. "I first had my eyes on him in 2010 [when Hurdle served as Texas' hitting coach] ... the ability to get in front of the ball, block the ball, keep it in front of the plate. That was very impressive; that's one of his strengths."
Of the feeling-out process he and Cervelli went through on Wednesday, Cole noted "it will probably be like that for a little while, then at some point we'll sit down and talk about it."
In his first preseason appearance, Cole was out there to "shake the rust off. I was just excited to get back out there."
"I had a lot of fun and made some adjustments I needed between the first and second innings, so that was nice," he added.