Spin Williams: A.J. Cole has grown by “leaps and bounds”

Right-hander A.J. Cole wrapped up his 2013 season at fall instructional league in Viera, Fla. It was the culmination of his first full season back with the Nationals after spending last season in the A’s organization.

In 2012, Cole went from high Single-A to low Single-A in the Oakland system.

In 2013, Cole jumped from high Single-A to Double-A in the Nationals system. In his final seven starts of the season with Double-A Harrisburg, Cole went 4-2 with a 2.18 ERA and 49 strikeouts. He had 151 strikeouts in 25 starts for the entire season.

Nationals pitching coordinator Spin Williams explained why Cole was able to pitch so well this season and make the move to Harrisburg without missing a beat.

“First, I think his mind was clear,” Williams said. “He got back where he had had some success. We let him be himself. We just got him back the way we remembered him.

“To his credit, he really made quick adjustments. His secondary stuff, his changeup and breaking ball, they both came along. He has always been able to command the fastball. He got a little bit stronger this year. I think that has really helped him.”

Williams believed the trade back to the Nationals accelerated the maturation process for Cole.

“I think maybe the trade kind of matured him, as well,” Williams said. “He has grown leaps and bounds this year. I am just so pleased with his advancement and where he is at going into the offseason and getting stronger, getting his body on better condition. I think we are going to have a lot of fun watching him develop into a big league pitcher.”

Cole concentrated his work this season and into instructional league on his breaking pitch. Williams said when he commands the breaking pitch, the sky is the limit.

“Mainly his breaking pitch, but ... at the end of the season, he really developed a good changeup and a good feel for the changeup,” Williams said. “But the breaking pitch is the next hurdle for him to really develop and become a three-pitch guy that has the opportunity to start at higher levels.”

Judging by how well Cole fared making the leap to Double-A, he should also be able to make a big step next season as he gains strength and becomes more comfortable back with the team that drafted him in 2010.

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