Cole arrives at camp with clean bill of health

Pirates' ace finished last season on 60-day DL

February 13th, 2017

BRADENTON, Fla. -- It was an eventful offseason for . He got married, honeymooned in the Caribbean and took in a UCLA basketball game or two. From a baseball standpoint, Cole's winter was mercifully normal and uneventful.

This time last year, Cole was still recovering from rib inflammation that derailed his preseason program. He provided a more optimistic outlook Monday on the eve of the Pirates' first spring workout for pitchers and catchers.

"Right on track," Cole said. "It's been different. I feel I'm in a good spot. Excited to get going."

:: Spring Training 2017 preview ::

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 and , 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."