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Pregame: Gerrit Cole's clean workspace

Justin K. Aller

Notes and quotes from pregame:

Morton update

Charlie Morton threw a bullpen today. Clint Hurdle said that he would likely know after the game if Morton would be Sunday's starter. Hurdle said that Morton wasn't able to go, Vance Worley would likely take the spot

Comparing Cole's two seasons

Heading into tonight's game, Gerrit Cole has thrown 117 innings. Last season he threw a total of 117.1. Here are how the two seasons match up:

Year K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP xFIP
2013 7.6 2.1 3.22 2.91 3.14
2014 8.5 2.9 3.92 3.65 3.54

The difference in FIP is largely due to a higher home rate this season, with a 10.6 percent HR/FB up from 8.1 percent. The difference in xFIP is largely related to a higher fly ball rate, 32.1 percent from 26.1 percent.

Cole's clean workspace

A few weeks ago while Cole was pitching against the Cardinals, I noticed that the right-hander was fastidious about about keeping the pitcher's rubber clean. Before each pitch he pauses for a moment, wipes it clean with his feet, steps on the slab, looks in for the sign and delivers.

For a few weeks after that game I couldn't stop paying attention to rubber-cleanliness as I watched other pitchers. From my small sample, I'm guessing Cole may keep the cleanest pitcher's plate in the league.

While I was in Philadelphia covering the series against the Phillies, I had a 20-minute conversation with Cole for a larger project. As the interview was winding down, I wanted to ask him about the rubber thing, but I was worried that my preoccupation with it would lead to a silly question and wreck an otherwise good talk. But I was really curious, so I went ahead and asked.

To my surprise, as soon as I mentioned it to Cole he started shaking his head and, while it would be too much to say his eyes lit up, he certainly enthusiastically affirmed that he's aware of the quirk.

"Absolutely clean pitcher's rubber, absolutely," Cole said.

He went on to explain that when he starts his wiping of the slab ritual, it is the moment when he starts refocusing on the next pitch. It is the transition point between letting the reaction to the last pitch fade away and starting to think about the next pitch.

"That's just when I'm thinking and [reloading]," Cole said. "I'm doing something and I'm thinking, but I'm not engaged on it, and then all I have to do is take a step forward [and go]."

Every pitcher has that moment of transition. For slow workers, the process seems more drawn out. They walk around the mound, perhaps, taking a few breaths and slowly transitioning. For example, for Clay Buchholz, a well-known slow worker, the transition comes right after getting the sign from the catcher. He is up on the mound rather quickly, but after he gets the sign he pauses.

"I breathe," Buchholz said. "I think breathing is important for anything you're competitive with. Like golfing or basketball. When someone is shooting free throws they always take a deep breath. That's what I'm trying to do. Get as relaxed as possible and say, okay, this is where I'm throwing this pitch. Think about it for a couple seconds and then [go]."

Cole is a relatively fast worker and his transition is the quick compulsive wipe of the rubber, which leads to its immaculately white appearance when he pitches.

Cole and I went on to talk about how Mark Melancon keeps one of the dirtiest slabs on the team. He explained that Melancon is more concerned about filling in every hole around him and so a lot of dirt ends up on top of the pitcher's rubber.

So that's the story about Cole's clean pitcher's mound. Watch for it, tonight.