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When delivery is sound, Cole unhittable

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Gerrit Cole may not yet be ready for Major League competition. But he is definitely too good for international competition.

Cole blew down the first six Spanish batters he faced on strikes in pitching the first three innings of the Pirates' 10-0 victory over World Baseball Classic entry Spain on Tuesday at McKechnie Field, then assessed his chances of making the Bucs' staff with impressive simplicity.

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"I'm still here," said Cole, the Pirates' No. 1 prospect, according to MLB.com. "They haven't yet told me I haven't [got a chance], and as long as I'm still here, I guess I do."

Cole had what could have been considered a nothing-to-gain and everything-to-lose outing on Tuesday. If he did well, hey, it's only Spain. If he struggled, hey -- against Spain?

"I treated it like every other start," Cole said. "I tried to nail the delivery in the bullpen and take it out into the game. My location and stuff was good, and that's always a good thing. I would've liked to have carried it better into the third."

The Spaniards got Cole's attention in that third. One-out singles by Yasser Gomez and Gabriel Suarez put the right-hander in two-on hot water. Cole responded by picking Suarez off first and, after walking Daniel Figueroa to extend the threat, getting Paco Figueroa on an inning-ending grounder to second.

"They got a ball through the hole, and the hit-and-run [by Suarez] did not work out in our favor," Cole said. "But I was fortunate to get out of it."

Cole immediately looked forward to more of the same.

"I'm just trying to keep my delivery in check and trying to be consistent with fastball location," he said. "I'm trying to get a feel for changing speeds, and trusting the guy behind the plate, [the catcher]."

Manager Clint Hurdle had no problem looking beyond the competition in evaluating -- and raving about -- Cole's performance.

"Yes, there is some type of sliding scale," Hurdle said, alluding to the prism through which to assess Cole's stuff. "I can't get caught up in that. He took care of what he had to, pounding the zone, throwing strikes and being effective. He went out there with a purpose, and I loved the rhythm, loved the downhill angle. It was a very good day for Cole."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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