New beginnings often stir up past successes.
Gerrit Cole was given a fresh start with the defending World Series champion Houston Astros this season, and the former Orange Lutheran star seems to have taken a step back in time.
Back to the best of times.
In his first four starts with the Astros, Cole went 2-0 with a miniscule 0.96 ERA, and Houston won all four games. He became the sixth major league pitcher since 1900 to strike out at least 40 batters in his first four games with a new team.
Cole had 36 strikeouts in his first three starts, breaking the major league record set by Randy Johnson, and he joined Nolan Ryan as the only major league pitchers to strike out at least 11 in their first three starts with a new team.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Cole said. “[Ryan] was a pretty good pitcher, to say the least.”
Cole isn’t overly excited because he’s started a season like this before.
He spent his first five major league seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Three years ago, he went 4–0 in April with a 1.76 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 30 2⁄3 innings, earning NL Pitcher of the Month.
Cole went on to make his only All-Star team that season, lead the Pirates into the playoffs for a third straight year and deliver his most productive major-league season, finishing 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA.
Injuries and ineffectiveness prevented Cole from building on that success, however.
He went 7-10 the following season with a 3.88 ERA, and 12-12 in a career-high 33 starts last season with a career-worst 4.26 ERA.
The Pirates weren’t convinced Cole could get back to his 2015 level, so they traded him to the Astros in January for four prospects.
Cole didn’t waste any time proving the Pirates wrong.
Another former Trinity League player is hoping his fourth major league team in 23 days this season will be the right fit.
Trayce Thompson, a former Santa Margarita outfielder, was acquired by the Chicago White Sox on April 19. The White Sox had drafted Thompson out of high school in 2009, and he broke into the major leagues with Chicago in 2015.
Thompson was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers after that season and appeared headed for a long-term role in L.A., but after a strong start to the 2016 season, Thompson dropped off significantly and was demoted to the minors in mid-July.
He appeared in just 27 games for the Dodgers last season, hitting .122. Thompson was placed on waivers two days before the start of this season, and picked up by the New York Yankees a week later. He spent just two days with the Yankees before he placed on waivers again.
Thompson was claimed by the Oakland A’s on April 5 and he appeared to be a good fit with the young team. His brother, Klay, was also based nearby as a member of the Golden State Warriors.
Thompson had seven at-bats for the A’s before they also designated him for assignment, however.
Chicago, the team that drafted him in the second round in 2009, was ready to take another chance on him.
“It was difficult letting him go, because he fit in really well here,” A’s coach Bob Melvin told local reporters.