"Right on track," Cole said. "It's been different. I feel I'm in a good spot. Excited to get going."
The 26-year-old right-hander finished last season on the 60-day disabled list due to right posterior elbow inflammation, the same issue that sidelined him in August. Cole missed time earlier in the season due to a strained triceps. He was set back from Day 1 due to rib inflammation then spent the rest of Spring Training trying to catch up.
Cole's numbers dipped as he grinded through the injury-plagued campaign. He was one of the National League's best starters in 2015, going 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA and 202 strikeouts in 208 innings over 32 starts. Last season, he pitched through bouts of discomfort and finished 7-10 with a 3.88 ERA in 116 innings over 21 starts.
"That was a battle last year," he said. "But the ball's coming out well right now so I'm excited.
"There's a lot of things out of your control. Obviously it was an undesirable situation. Where we are now, it's a good spot. I've obviously learned a lot, a lot of mental toughness, learned how to deal with some adversity. Hopefully I'm better for it."
The Pirates are counting on it, in fact. Cole has a solid supporting cast in Jameson Taillon and Ivan Nova, but he will be tasked with leading a young Bucs rotation. With a clean bill of health on Day 1, Cole is already off to a better start than last year.
"It's a really exciting opportunity. We have a lot of great individuals here, good guys," Cole said. "Looking forward to working with them. They're real competitors. They have high aptitude. Looking for them to contribute, hopefully give us a push whenever needed."
Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com 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.