Pirates' top pick Cole likely to pitch in AFL

Pirates' top pick Cole likely to pitch in AFL

PHOENIX -- Though neither the Arizona Fall League, nor the Pirates, have made it official, Gerrit Cole, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, is expected to soon be named to the AFL's Mesa Solar Sox roster.

The Pirates have always left the door open to Cole's participation in the AFL, though a decision was going to come after the right-hander worked out and engaged in a throwing program in front of organization eyes in Bradenton, Fla. Cole is still in Bradenton for instructional league workouts, but he will leave early to head to Arizona.

Cole will be joined by six other Pirates prospects -- lefty Nathan Baker, right-handers Phil Irwin and Mike Colla, infielders Jarek Cunningham and Brock Holt and outfielder Robbie Grossman. All six have already been officially announced.

The AFL season will begin on Oct. 4. Triple-A Indianapolis hitting coach Jeff Branson will serve as the hitting coach for the Mesa club.

General manger Neal Huntington said all of the pitchers will have varying workload limitations. Because he hasn't pitched in a competitive environment since the end of his collegiate season, Cole will likely be less limited in his innings count this fall.