Nick Markakis led off the first with a homer, but between Chris Davis' wind-aided solo homer in the third and Ryan Flaherty's two-run blow in the sixth, Cole retired nine of 12, with one of the hits in that sequence a bunt single.
"I was most happy about being able to make the adjustment midway through the game," Cole said. "I started to find that rhythm, started to find my delivery. I went on some really good runs. It's not fun giving up six runs and three bombs, and a game like this seems to have a lot of glaring negatives, but you've got to look for the positives."
Cole was also glad about being able to flip the switch from "coast" to "compete" when he wanted to. He morphed from practice mode to "shut down absolutely, at all cost" in the first, when a Jordy Mercer error led to the Birds having a man on third with one out.
Cole's response: A strikeout of Davis, then a harmless fly from Nelson Cruz.
Cole's next start -- when and where -- is not known. He referred to matters as being "up in the air," possibly a holding pattern while the club determines Francisco Liriano's ability to make his Opening Day start.
Wherever and whenever Cole takes his next turn, this obviously was a good tuneup, complete with three at-bats. As Pittsburgh's first pitcher to be included in a lineup this spring, Cole popped out on a bunt attempt in the second, struck out in the fifth and lifted a sacrifice fly that gave the Bucs a 5-3 lead in the sixth.
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.