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Top prospect Cole works out with starting rotation

BRADENTON, Fla. -- The intrigue over Gerrit Cole's purpose and fate in the Pirates' Spring Training camp got a little bulletin-board boost Wednesday: The 2011 No. 1 Draft choice was in a workout group with members of the starting rotation.

From the get-go, the Bucs have downplayed Cole's chances of cracking the rotation. But there he was on Field 4 at Pirate City, rubbing shoulders with A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez, James McDonald, Jeff Karstens and Jeff Locke.

And, yes, there certainly was motive behind the assignment. But not the one conclusion-jumpers might think. It was to simply further a young pitcher's education.

"Yes, we put a lot of thought into how we group guys. We don't just pick names out of a hat and put them together," manager Clint Hurdle said. "We look at guys we may want to match up, so they can watch some other people, see how they go about things, to help with that educational process. That's something we definitely keep in mind with some of our prospects."

Not to say Cole -- ranked No. 1 among Bucs prospects by -- definitely won't come out of his second big league camp with a big league job. A persuasive spring by him could sway the Pirates from whatever blueprint might be in place. At the least, Cole certainly could be around longer than he was a year ago, when he was reassigned to the Minor League camp at the start of Grapefruit League play.