After a dominant sophomore campaign with the Vancouver Canadians last year, right-hander Taylor Cole has made the jump to the Lansing Lugnuts this year in the full-season Midwest League. After only two starts, Cole is 1-1 with a 5.19 ERA and nine strikeouts in 8 2/3 innings, and he knows that things are just getting started.
“It’s a long season,” he said. “I want to stay consistent in Lansing and be the best I can be. I know I will have a few things exposed, but I know as I work through them I’ll get better and I hope at the end of the year I can say I’m a better pitcher then when I started here.”
Another aspect Cole likes about being in Lansing is the opportunity to work with his new pitching coach, Vince Horsman. Horsman, a Nova Scotia native who appeared in 141 major league games, was praised for his work all-around work with the Lugnuts’ successful pitching staff last season.
“Vince Horsman has a great coaching and baseball mind,” Cole said. “He’s always going to get on you on what it takes to be a major league pitcher. I’ve already learned a lot from him and I look forward to learning more as the season goes on!”
Growing up in Las Vegas, Nevada, Cole excelled in baseball and basketball at Bishop Gorman High School. After graduating in 2007, he was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 26th round of the MLB draft, but it was an opportunity he wound up passing on due to timing.
“When I was drafted by the Dodgers, it wasn’t the right time in my life,” Cole said. “I was just out of high school and felt I still had a lot to prove before jumping into professional baseball.”
Choosing to attend the College of Southern Nevada instead, Cole appeared in 22 games, going 9-3 with a 1.40 ERA to go along with 75 strikeouts and 33 walks in 77 innings of work.
“Southern Nevada was a good experience for me, mainly because it was my first full year pitching,” he said. “In high school I split time between shortstop and pitching, but at CSN I just pitched and it was a good year to learn how to pitch better.”
Cole’s time at CSN got him drafted by the Arizona Diamonbacks in the 31st round of the 2008 MLB Draft, but again, he chose not to sign, this time for religious reasons. Cole is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and like many young men in this faith, the young prospect chose to go on a mission which required him to hang up his cleats for two years.
“When I was drafted by the Diamondbacks I was getting ready for my church mission. It was something I always wanted to do,” he stated.
Cole returned to baseball two years later, playing for Brigham Young University in Utah. There, he posted a 5-5 record with a 2.99 ERA and 67 strikeouts for the Cougars.
“Brigham Young was a good place to go before playing professional baseball,” Cole added. “It really helped with the transition from college baseball to professional baseball.”
Again, his success on the mound was recognized. In 2011, the Toronto Blue Jays selected Cole in the 29th round of the MLB draft. Cole was excited by this opportunity, as Toronto was the location where he fulfilled his church mission during his break from baseball.
“I was very excited to be drafted by Toronto and to get a chance to play professional baseball,” he said. “I really liked the idea of Toronto, because I spent two years there on a mission for my church.”
After signing with the Blue Jays, Cole joined the Vancouver Canadians for the 2011 season. In 2011, Cole went 1-3 with a 5.88 ERA to go with 25 strikeouts and 18 walks in 33 2/3 innings of work in 11 games which featured eight starts.Fatigue was likely the culprit for his numbers, though, as Cole had already thrown 93 1/3 innings for BYU earlier in the year.
Returning to Vancouver for the 2012 season, Cole was a force on the mound, going 6-0 with a 0.81 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 66 1/3 innings of work. In addition to being named Topps Northwest League Player of the Year for his standout season, Cole won two League championships with the Canadians and said he loved every moment in Western Canada.
“Being named Topps Northwest League Player of the Year was a huge honor,” Cole said. “It was something I worked hard for and I share it with my team. My teammates were great and I couldn’t have done it without them.”
“My two years in Vancouver were amazing. We won two championships. We played in a great venue with great teammates in a great city. I have nothing but good things to say about Vancouver.”
Now, after a successful 2012 short-season campaign and an offseason that saw him return to BYU to take classes with his wife and get ready fro spring training, Cole credits his success to date to his pitch repertoire.
“I throw four-seam and two-seam fastballs; one of them sinks,” the 23-year-old said. “I also use a changeup and a slider. In my last game my fastball was between 90 to 93 mph which was good for me, but I hope it goes up later in the season.”
Even last summer, when Jays Prospects caught up with Cole’s pitching coach at the time, Jim Czajkowski, he was praised for the progress he had made with his pitch arsenal.
“His off-speed pitches, they are phenomenal—they’re good to go,” Czajkowski said at the time. “His changeup is dead on right now, it’s a pitch that he really trusts and he’s going to be a good one, I think.”
Some say that Cole is making up for lost time in his baseball career right now, but by the sounds of things, he’s on the right track and doing just that.
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