Cole set to start throwing, reflects on tough '16

Watson discusses acknowledging trade buzz during offseason

Cole set to start throwing, reflects on tough '16

PITTSBURGH -- While the Pirates seek a veteran starter to upgrade their rotation, the best news for their pitching staff may have come Saturday morning from Gerrit Cole: His offseason throwing program starts Monday.

Cole, who battled a rib injury in Spring Training and two separate arm injuries during the season, said he is feeling healthy and looking forward to next season. Cole followed up a dominant 2015 season with a disappointing '16, going 7-10 with a 3.88 ERA in 21 starts.

"There's obviously the process of reflecting back and then moving forward. We're in the latter part of that stage," Cole said. "Just forward thinking, looking forward to next year."

Cole said he was in the gym "the day after the season was over, and I haven't stopped." His most recent injury, posterior inflammation in his right elbow, necessitated a lengthy rest period that will end Monday when Cole picks up a baseball.

"It was a tough year in a lot of different aspects," he said. "I really wouldn't put the blame in one spot. Just really forward thinking now, looking forward to next year."

Cole, arbitration-eligible for the first time, said he has not yet discussed a 2017 contract with the Pirates.

On the move?
While Andrew McCutchen's potential availability dominated the Winter Meetings news cycle, with a trade never coming to fruition, several other Pirates near free agency are on the block. That may include closer Tony Watson, who has reportedly drawn interest from other clubs.

• Cutch happy to still be wearing black and gold

Watson's predecessor, Mark Melancon, endured a full offseason of trade rumors a year ago before being sent to the Nationals in July. Watson has gotten used to the buzz.

"You've always got to consider it once you get a few years into your career. If you're fortunate to play long enough, you get into the business side of things. It's a good and a bad thing," Watson said. "I love it here. This is all I've known. This will be my 10th year in the organization. It's pretty surreal."

Freese feels for Kang
Infielder David Freese offered his thoughts and prayers for teammate Jung Ho Kang, who was recently arrested in South Korea and charged with driving under the influence. The Pirates have issued a statement saying they are "extremely disappointed" in Kang, who apologized through his management company.

"I'm here for him if he ever needs me. I'm glad everyone's OK," Freese said. "Obviously we love Jung Ho. He's a great teammate, great guy. He has to self-reflect a little bit -- we all do more than we do, maybe on a daily basis. He just has to be honest with himself and take the first step. I hope he already has. Then go from there."

Married men
Cole reported to PirateFest as a married man, having tied the knot in California with longtime girlfriend Amy, the sister of Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford. Best gifts? Pans and dishware, Cole said.

The second news of nuptials came as more of a surprise. Freese and his fiancée, Mairin, quietly wed on Sept. 9 in Pittsburgh. They signed the necessary papers and made it official at, of all places, a Crazy Mocha coffee shop.

New numbers
Kang switched his jersey number from 27 to 16, which he wore with the Nexen Heroes in the Korea Baseball Organization. Former first-base coach Nick Leyva, now in the front office, previously wore No. 16.

Right-hander Nick Kingham, likely to make his Major League debut next summer, switched from No. 80 to 49, which was previously worn by left-hander Jeff Locke.

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.