Nationals prospect A.J. Cole pitched for the first time at accelerated camp in a game versus Italy this week. The right-hander went one inning, allowing two walks, no hits and no runs on 18 pitches.
Cole said it took him a few pitches to get going, but then he got into a rhythm.
"At first, it was a little slow but it got a little bit better," Cole said. "I was the third pitcher in the seventh inning against Italy. They were pretty good hitters, they made contact every time. I got a ground ball double play and a pop out to first base to end the inning."
Cole said he knew what went wrong early with the two free passes and knows the quick remedy for his next outing, expected to be two innings on Tuesday.
"I was kind of loose early (with my pitches)," Cole said. "Mentally, I was kind of rushing it a little. I wasn't relaxing and just throwing with my catcher."
Cole said he was having a little trouble locating his fastball on the first two hitters, but then settled in.
"My velocity was probably like 88 or 90 miles per hour," Cole said. "I wasn't really trying to throw hard because it was my first outing. I am really trying to just locate right now. It is still early."
Cole said the first few weeks of camp have been "very exciting" for him as he works on his four main pitches: a two-seam fastball, a four-seam fastball, a changeup and a knuckle-curve.
He felt ahead of the game coming into spring training in Viera, Fla., because he worked so hard in the gym all offseason.
"I was doing everything," Cole said. "I was doing core work in the gym, strengthening fast-twitch (muscle fibers) and doing a bunch of endurance work like circuit training. I feel stronger in certain areas in strength, like my legs, my core and my back. I don't get as tired in those areas like I used to."
Cole said his next outing will likely consist of two innings in a relief role, but he might get to start one or two games during spring training. His role will be based on the timing of the game and what other pitchers are available on each particular day.
Being one of the younger pitchers in camp has not intimidated the 19-year old Cole, who is rooming with 19-year old left-hander Robbie Ray, also fresh out of high school and beginning his career with the Nationals.
"I don't look at age-wise as a thing because I get along with almost anyone," Cole said. "I don't compare by ages. But there is Robbie Ray, my roommate, and he is going through the same thing as me."
Cole said the coaches are not changing much with his delivery right now, but making only subtle alterations.
"They help me with the grip on my changeup," Cole said. "They have worked with me, little things like my release to add just a tad tilt of my wrist. It is nothing big right now."
Stay tuned for Monday and my update with Ray.