Rounding Third: Cole carries big expectations into Steel City

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

What is the saying if you get fooled a third time? Perhaps you might be able to ask someone in Pittsburgh sometime around Labor Day.

The Pittsburgh Pirates are up to their old tricks again. They head into action on Tuesday at 37-26, four games back of the National League Central lead, but holders of one of the two wild card spots in the NL.

Not bad for a team that hasn't been to the postseason, let alone had a winning record, since Barry Bonds was roaming the outfield at Three Rivers Stadium.

But, don't tell that to anyone from the 'Burgh, who will be the first ones to remind you that it is only the beginning of June. In fact, even if the Pirates occupy a playoff spot at the All-Star break, expect rolled eyes if you bring up the postseason in the vicinity of the Steel City.

Why? Well, because Pirates fans have been there and done that.

Like the last two seasons.

In 2011, Pittsburgh set a major league record for the worst finish (72-90) by a team in first place halfway through the season, as the Pirates endured a nightmare second half and became the first major league team to finish with a losing record after being at least 16 games over .500 at any point.

Or maybe it was last year when the Pirates held the top spot in the division, were 11 games above .500 at the All-Star break and put playoff tickets on sale only to see everything fall apart again. The Bucs stumbled to a 79-83 finish and extended the worst streak in North American sports with their 20th consecutive losing season..

So, excuse the Black and Yellow faithful for not planning a parade. Especially on June 11.

But, there is something, or someone for that matter, who could lead to this finally being the year the Pirates get that enormous monkey off their backs. And that wild card hits PNC Park on Tuesday when Gerrit Cole makes his major league debut for the Pirates.

The former first overall pick of the Pirates back in 2011, Cole is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball and enters his first big league start having thrown 19 straight scoreless innings at Triple-A.

"We know that, here on out, anybody who comes up, it'll be to help us for the better," said the Pirates resident superstar Andrew McCutchen. "We're trying to win, and we figure everyone here is to help us do that. We know what Gerrit Cole is capable of doing, we saw it throughout spring training."

The 22-year-old flame-thrower, who has drawn comparisons to Roger Clemens, was 5-3 with a 2.91 ERA in 12 starts for Indianapolis.

"I caught him a couple of times in spring training, and I like his makeup and his attitude," Martin said. "In my opinion, he's going to be a good pitcher for a long time, so this will be start No. 1 of a hopefully long and prosperous career."

While the Pirates desperately needed another starter with Wandy Rodriguez possible heading for the disabled list and Jeanmar Gomez already on it, Cole is just ready.

Honestly, he should have been with the team out of camp. The popular line at the time was that he had to work on some command issues, but you have to think the move was economically charged at the time.

And wouldn't you know it, his call-up now probably saves the Pirates a year before he becomes eligible for arbitration.

Regardless of why he is here, he's here and what's happened the last two years is in the past. It's BC, before Cole.

The Pirates are close to turning this thing around. In McCutchen, they have one of the top-five all-around players in the game. Now they believe they have someone who can match his talents on the mound.

When the Pirates do make it back to the postseason, you can point to June 11, 2013.

The time is right for Cole. The time is right for the Pirates.

But Pirates fans don't want to hear about the labor. Just show them the baby.