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Subtle changes: Cole to emphasize, not alter, changeup

MLB.com

BRADENTON, Fla. -- Gerrit Cole hasn't changed his changeup, like fellow starters Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow and Chad Kuhl. But he has "put a little extra emphasis" on the pitch, he said.

Cole threw his fastball, curveball and changeup in his Grapefruit League debut on Friday at LECOM Park, tossing two scoreless innings in the Pirates' 5-2 win over the Orioles. The first offspeed pitch Cole worked on this offseason was his changeup, his least-used offering.

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BRADENTON, Fla. -- Gerrit Cole hasn't changed his changeup, like fellow starters Jameson Taillon, Tyler Glasnow and Chad Kuhl. But he has "put a little extra emphasis" on the pitch, he said.

Cole threw his fastball, curveball and changeup in his Grapefruit League debut on Friday at LECOM Park, tossing two scoreless innings in the Pirates' 5-2 win over the Orioles. The first offspeed pitch Cole worked on this offseason was his changeup, his least-used offering.

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After giving up a single and a walk to start the game, Cole got Manny Machado to roll over on a changeup to begin a 5-4-3 double play.

"I think it's coming along quite nicely," Cole said. "I thought I located it where I needed it."

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Cole said he planned to mix in his changeup more often last season, but a preseason rib injury limited his ability to work on it during Spring Training. With plenty of weapons at his disposal, Cole feels the changeup can be a good complement to his slider if used properly.

"You just want to try to get out with as many bullets as you can in April," Cole said. "There's not a lot of stress with that pitch. I just got it going a couple weeks early. … I don't have a good feel for it. I'm trying to get a better feel for it."

Video: Cole discusses starting Opening Day for the Pirates

Cole didn't throw his slider, the secondary pitch that comes most natural to him, during Friday's outing, which he said is typical for him. A more effective changeup would benefit Cole, who was one of the National League's best starters in 2015, before struggling with injuries last season. According to Statcast™ data, opponents hit .500 with a .636 slugging percentage against Cole's changeup last year.

"He used the changeup today, and when he did throw it, it was good. It was down," manager Clint Hurdle said. "The fastball velocity was clean. The finish was good. He threw some breaking balls as well. It was fun to see him out there healthy and strong. I thought he pitched well."

Being healthy is the real key for Cole, who was off-track from the start last spring. But so far, so good for the Pirates' Opening Day starter.

"Any time you can get in a position to start to get some of the quality work in as early as possible, I think it gives you a leg up or at least gives you the opportunity to be really prepared for the first time you take the ball," Cole said. "Being removed a little bit from that [last year], it's been exciting."

Adam Berry has covered the Pirates for MLB.com since 2015. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook, read his blog and listen to his podcast.

Pittsburgh Pirates, Gerrit Cole