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Cole happy with outing opposite Syndergaard

Astros righty strikes out seven over four innings
Special to MLB.com

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- As is typical with early Grapefruit League contests, the first couple of innings featured frontline starters. Then clubs trotted out an assortment of prospects whose numbers generally started with at least a 5, but more than likely a 6, 7 or 8.

Well, it's not late February anymore, and Houston newcomer Gerrit Cole is glad to be getting in the work.

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- As is typical with early Grapefruit League contests, the first couple of innings featured frontline starters. Then clubs trotted out an assortment of prospects whose numbers generally started with at least a 5, but more than likely a 6, 7 or 8.

Well, it's not late February anymore, and Houston newcomer Gerrit Cole is glad to be getting in the work.

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"It was a good day. I got the pitch count up where we wanted to," Cole said of his 77-pitch outing in Tuesday's 6-1 win over the Mets. "I pitched out of a couple of problems, and my command was pretty good."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Cole and Noah Syndergaard, two hurlers who have been outstanding in Spring Training, squared off at First Data Field, with Cole getting the slight edge over the hard-throwing Thor.

While it's hard to say Cole outdueled Syndergaard -- Thor also had a good day -- the UCLA alum dealt the Mets some of his better stuff and made just a couple of mistakes. Two of them occurred in the first inning.

Brandon Nimmo led off the bottom the first with a long homer to right on a 3-2 pitch that bounced off the concourse and into the woods. Travis d'Arnaud later belted a hard single to left-center field. It was the only run and two of the four hits the Mets would muster off Cole. He struck out seven and walked two batters in his four innings.

"The pitch to Nimmo was not in the location we wanted," Cole said. "I kind of slowed him down on the curveball the pitch before, then followed it up with a changeup too much over the plate. d'Arnaud did a decent job on the slider. That one didn't get quite as far away as we wanted to [on a 3-2 pitch]. Those kind of hits are going to happen."

Cole said the goal for his final two spring starts is to get the pitch count up and have "a little more conviction in a couple of those sequences" that didn't go his way Tuesday.

"I need to challenge a couple of guys before I get to 3-2," Cole said. "I just missed on two of those walks, but at the same time, my stuff was good enough today to challenge them a little more maybe in those situations."

One of the biggest adjustments for Cole, whom the Astros acquired in a January trade from Pittsburgh, will be to get to know his new catchers. The right-hander pitched to battery-mate Tim Federowicz against the Mets.

"I'm just trying to get familiar with the catchers, trying to get familiar with what they want to do with my stuff and then have them get familiar with what I want to do as well. Just try to get in the flow of the team," Cole said.

And as for the big curve that struck out Tim Tebow looking in the fourth?

"That was a pretty good one. I had a pretty sharp one today to a couple of left-handers," Cole said.

Bill Whitehead is a contributor to MLB.com.

Houston Astros, Gerrit Cole