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Pregame: An intriguing pitching matchup to kick off series in Detroit

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Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Pitching matchup of interest

Tonight's game features one of the more intriguing pitching matchups of the season. Gerrit Cole's recent dominance has led some to compare him to a younger version of his mound opponent tonight, Justin Verlander. Clint Hurdle sees the similarities:

"Yeah, he has, he definitely has," Hurdle said, when asked if Cole is showing a Verlander-like skill set. "His fastball velocity is playing out bigger this year. There have been some indicators that it has increased as the games have played out. The ability to spin the ball, it's been more slider than curveball this year. Yes, he's grown up to be not just a power pitcher, not just a pitcher with power that has a very good feel and awareness for the game and can read swings."

Hurdle added that what set Verlander apart was his ability to simply take over a game -- a trait that Cole appears to be beginning to manifest.

"That's one thing we'd always see from Verlander," Hurdle said. "When a pitcher is on, there is no doubt who has the advantage. And he was one of those guys that would scream at you,'Not today. Get somebody else, you're not going to beat me.'"

Here is how Cole compares to Verlander during the two different stages of the latter's career. Felix Hernandez's age 22-24 seasons are added for good measure.

Name IP WHIP HR/9 K/9 FIP ERA
Cole 351 1.17 0.6 8.2 2.99 3.10
Verlander (age: 22-24) 399 1.29 0.9 7.1 4.17 3.74
Verlander Prime (age: 27-29) 713 1.04 0.7 8.9 2.97 2.79
Felix Hernandez (age: 22-24) 689 1.18 0.6 8.2 3.28 2.69

When the Detroit press asked Brad Ausmus if Cole was underrated, the Tigers manager responded that he is only underrated to those who haven't paid attention to National League baseball.

"I think in American League cities they don't know much about him because they don't see him," Ausmus said. "But he's not underrated to those around baseball."

However, Ausmus said that he can't directly compare Cole to Verlander because he hasn't seen enough of the Pirates right-hander.

"He's got very good stuff," Ausmus said. "He pitched well against us and I've seen him pitch on TV, but other than from an ability level and the way he carries himself on the mound, you can tell he is very talented and has a chance to be one of the better pitchers in the game for a while. But I can't really compare him to Verlander."

Pirates looking for separation between Tabata and Hernandez

Hurdle said that Gorkys Hernandez opened some eyes in Spring Training, and the club was eager to see how he would perform in Triple-A during the first half of the season. The fielding has always been there, Hurdle explained, but what interested the team lately was the uptick in offense.

"The bat's been consistent," Hurdle said. "So, we wanted to see the bat here, as much as anything. He's going to play good defense."

Hurdle added that the organization also wants to get a clearer sense of how Hernandez compares to Jose Tabata.

"We want to give him the opportunity to get back in and see, 'Ok, here is what Jose Tabata is and here is what Gorkys is,'" Hurdle said. "Moving forward as we kind of go through player allocation and just kind of dig in deeper to tool sets at this level, because it is hard to compare apples and oranges [performance at Triple-A vs. the majors]."

Guerra promotion explained

Hurdle said that the reason Deolis Guerra was promoted and Chris Volstad was designated for assignment is because Guerra "replicates [Rob] Scahill's skill set more" and, with Vance Worley's increased workload lately, it is important that he is also able to throw multiple innings.

Scahill is on the disabled list with forearm stiffness.

Hurdle bullish on Pirates outfield defense

Comerica Park has one of the most expansive outfields in baseball, which means a team's outfield defense is often put to the test. Although Fangraphs shows the Pirates outfield ranking 27th in baseball by UZR/150, allowing 5.5 runs above average, Hurdle is upbeat that the defense is coming around.

"We're big on all the defensive ratings, and our outfield defense has been solid the last six weeks in all the measurements and indicators," Hurdle said.

Hart starts rehab

The Pirates announced that Corey Hart will get his first rehabilitation start in Indianapolis tonight. He will bat third and play first.