CHICAGO — The Pirates will begin the final month of the regular season without their ace.
Cole dealt with two injuries — shoulder fatigue and a back strain — in 2014. He missed time in Spring Training due to inflammation in his ribs, an injury sustained in the offseason. In June, he left a start early and missed more than a month due to a strained right triceps.
Manager Dave Roberts said it was “plausible” that Kershaw will advance directly from the live batting-practice session, but left open the possibility of a Minor League rehab start, even though time is running out on the Minor League season.
Brandon McCarthy (hip) and Brett Anderson (blister), like Kershaw (herniated disk) on the disabled list, are also expected to face hitters Tuesday.
“We’re encouraged. We’ll see what happens after that,” Roberts said Monday of the Kershaw plans. “It depends how he comes out of it tomorrow.”
Roberts said hitters from the Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga team will be imported for the workout.
Although they are on the disabled list, Kershaw, McCarthy, Scott Kazmir and Alex Wood flew with the club to Denver to take part in the team NFL fantasy draft Sunday night. The pitchers played catch at Coors Field before it rained, then flew back to Los Angeles.
Roberts said Wood (elbow surgery) is a week to 10 days away from pitching off a mound, and the club remains optimistic he will be able to rejoin the club as a reliever by mid-September.
Former big league shortstop David Eckstein, who won two World Series rings with the Angels in 2002 and with the Cardinals in ’06, grew up in Sanford, Fla., and played at the University of Florida. He considers himself a “diehard Gator” and was a huge Tebow fan during the quarterback’s storied college days.
Eckstein is aware that Tebow was an all-state baseball player in high school in 2005, the last time he played baseball, and he’s seen some video of his latest workouts.
“To play the position of quarterback, you have to be able to do just about everything athletically,” Eckstein said. “And I would love to see him playing baseball. The one thing you know about Tim Tebow is he’s going to give you every ounce of whatever he’s got, and that type of person, with the right skill set would become a superstar in our game.
“If he had gone right to baseball out of high school, who knows what we would have?”
That’s a common sentiment among the big leaguers who were asked about Tebow.
Take Mariners catcher Mike Zunino, another Gator. Zunino was the third overall pick in the 2012 Draft and has big league time, but he still knows nothing is guaranteed. He spent much of this season in Triple-A before making it back to Seattle. Zunino admires Tebow as an athlete, but he says pro baseball is like nothing he’s experienced.
“Guys that have been doing it for their whole lives and have dedicated the major part of their young development into playing baseball бн there are a lot of them,” Zunino said. “So it’s going to be tough.”
And while reports have been that Tebow has natural power and a decent-looking swing, Zunino said success in the batter’s box at the pro level is about so much more than that.
Former big leaguer David Aardsma, who appeared in 14 games this year for Toronto’s Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo, has been facing Tebow to help prepare him for the showcase. Aardsma said what he’s seen firsthand is impressive.