BRADENTON, Fla. -- Gerrit Cole will pitch against the Red Sox on Opening Day. He'll probably face the Cubs and Cardinals several times this year, and he'll most likely line up against the Dodgers and Nationals and other heavy hitters.
He still might not see a better lineup than the one he shut out for three innings on Wednesday at LECOM Park.
Cole allowed two hits and appeared to be in command against the Dominican Republic's World Baseball Classic squad in a 10-6 loss.
"Fortunately I got out of there unscathed," Cole said. "It's a pretty big-time lineup.
"I was just trying to get through three. I just knew you couldn't make mistakes; less margin for error. Still tried to treat it like a Spring Training game."
Even in an early March exhibition, Cole rose to the competition. Robinson Cano hit a ground-ball single in the first inning but advanced no further. Cole breezed through a perfect second inning against Nelson Cruz, Starling Marte and Jean Segura.
The only trouble the righty encountered in the third inning was when Gregory Polanco ripped a double to deep center field. That turned out to be the only piece of solid contact Cole allowed on the day, and it came off the bat of someone who will be playing behind Cole during the season.
Cole responded by quickly retiring Welington Castillo, Carlos Santana and Cano. In all, the Bucs' Opening Day starter sat down nine of the 11 batters he faced.
"That's as good of a lineup as Gerrit will face all year," manager Clint Hurdle said. "It was a good stretch for him to go after that many good hitters in his three innings. It was fun to watch."
Cole used all four of his pitches, mixing in his slider along with his fastball, curveball and changeup. His fastball reached into the upper 90s, according to the stadium radar gun.
"I felt strong. I tried to keep getting as many reps with the fastball as I can, continue to build strength," Cole said. "I thought the changeup had good action today, as well as the curveball. I hit both sides of the plate well. I changed height on the fastball well, so it was good."
The most important thing for Cole, after a season set back by injuries, is good health and steady progress. In that regard, Cole feels he is where he needs to be.
"I think I'm right on track with everybody else," Cole said.