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After breakout rookie season, Pirates RHP Gerrit Cole looking to take next step

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BRADENTON, Florida — A.J. Burnett may be gone to Philadelphia, but the Pittsburgh Pirates believe they have their next ace in Gerrit Cole.

PHOTO: Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole throws during the first inning of a spring exhibition baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota, Fla., Sunday, March 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole throws during the first inning of a spring exhibition baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota, Fla., Sunday, March 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

The former No. 1 pick was spectacular at times during his rookie season in 2013, winning 10 games and getting better as the year wore on. The 23-year-old struck out 100 in 117 innings and went 6-2 over his final eight starts.

Cole pitched so well the Pirates opted to start him over Burnett in Game 5 of the NL division series against St. Louis. Pittsburgh loss but Cole hung tough in defeat.

Manager Clint Hurdle called Cole "special" and credited Cole's competitiveness for making him so effective at such a young age.

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PHOTO: Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole throws during the first inning of a spring exhibition baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles in Sarasota, Fla., Sunday, March 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
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