LA Angels pitcher Taylor Cole happy to be a part of special night for Skaggs & increased bullpen role.
By David Rice
Like many others who have benefited from LA Angels general manager Billy Eppler’s penchant for finding hidden gems others overlooked, Taylor Cole is another Eppler reclamation project that has made good.
After the 2017 season Taylor Cole was outrighted to the Blue Jays Triple-A affiliate in Buffalo. Cole elected to become a free agent and six months later the LA Angels and Eppler came knocking on his door. On March 5th of 2018 the Angels signed Cole to a minor league contract.
In the first three months of the 2018 season Taylor Cole toiled for the LA Angels’ Triple-A Affiliate in Salt Lake City just hoping for a chance to get back to the majors where he had only pitched one game in 2017 for the Blue Jays. While Cole’s numbers were not spectacular in Salt Lake (5.37 ERA in 34 games), the Angels needed bullpen help and called on Cole in late June.
In his first eight appearances Cole was stellar pitching in eight games spanning 17 innings allowing only three runs with 20 strikeouts and only four walks. He was used exclusively out of the bullpen in those appearances, but then the Angels decided to test him out as a starter. On August 12th and again on August 16th Cole was used as a starter and things did not go very well. In the two starts Cole lasted only 2.1 innings total giving up six runs with three walks and hit two batters. Not what Cole or the Angels were hoping for.
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The next six weeks Cole was returned to the bullpen and made eight more appearances in long relief giving up only two earned runs in 16.2 innings, allowing only four walks while striking out 16 batters. Cole ended the season with a 4-2 record and a sparkling 2.75 ERA striking out 39 batters in 36 innings and posting a 0.89 WHIP with an opponents batting average of .169.
Taylor Cole had finally arrived. He knew that he would go into Spring Training in 2019 with a secure spot in the bullpen as long as he pitched well during Cactus Exhibition League action. Cole said he was grateful to have gotten the chance from the Angels to show what he could do at the major league level.
“I’m really appreciated the opportunity that the Angels gave me to prove what I could do last season,” Cole said. “I had been a starter most of my minor league career, but then I started working out of the bullpen a couple of years ago and has given me the chance to get here to the majors which was a dream come true.”
Cole started Spring Training well, but then suffered a right shoulder strain and started the season on the injured list. He was recalled in mid April, but his stint only last two games (5 innings of scoreless relief) before he was sent down to Triple-A again for nearly a month. In June Cole was shuffled back and forth to Triple-A multiple times before returning for good on July 4th. Since his most recent return Cole has been lights out giving up only two runs in 17 innings of work lowering his ERA from 4.86 to 2.94. Cole’s July ERA was a miniscule 1.06 with a 0.94 WHIP while allowing a paltry .182 opposing batting average.
Taylor Cole’s role with the Angels has been somewhat of a Swiss-army knife and he has been used in multiple ways. Cole has become one of the Angels preferred openers in games where they wanted to allow certain starters, mainly Felix Pena to have the opportunity to come in after one or two innings in order to miss the first trip through the top of an opponents’ line-up. For Cole he is just happy contributing.
“Whatever the coach needs me to do, I will do it. I just want to help out the team,” Cole said. “I just have to stay ready and whenever my number is called go out and do the best I can to help the team win. I like where I am at right now. I would like to get a chance to prove that I can do both (starting and relieving). Whenever Skip (Ausmus) thinks that it is the best opportunity for me I’ll be ready. I think that I can prove that I can do both.”
While Taylor Cole was not with the Angels when starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs tragically passed away in Texas on July 1st, he was still hurting and just 10 days later Cole got to be a part of one of the most special nights in Angel history when he was tabbed to be the opener for the first home game for the Angels as they took the field to honor Skaggs. Cole along with all the Angel players and coaches wore Skaggs #45 on their back as the Angels remembered their fallen teammate.
After watching Tyler Skaggs’ mother throw the first pitch before the game, it was Cole’s turn to take the mound In the first two innings as the opener for Felix Pena, Cole was up to the task as he allowed no base runners striking out two Mariner batters.
“It was just amazing to be a part of. We got the ball going in the right direction with Debbie (Skaggs) throwing the first pitch. Pena and Garneau did the Heaney-lifting that night, but it was truly something special to be a part of,” Cole said.
The Angels exploded for nine runs in the first two innings in support of Cole, so when he handed the ball over to Pena the Angels were already cruising up 9-0. Pena matched his teammate’s performance throwing seven scoreless and hitless innings with the only blemish being a 5th inning walk to Omar Narvaez. With the 43,140 people in the crowd and the whole Angel bench including Cole standing on its feet Pena got Mallex Smith to ground out to complete the magical evening.
“We still think about that night and how special it was, but I don’t think it has hit us what happened that day, it was definitely one of the best things I have been a part of in my baseball career,” Cole said. “There was definitely some divine intervention there on that night. I think it brought some peace to his family, the fans, and the team.”
“I’ve talked with some of the guys even today about that night. It’s just pretty cool stuff when the Higher Power is here to say hey, I can show my work through baseball,” Cole added. “We are just really close as a team. It starts with our leaders, guys who have been here. For them to be vulnerable on a national stage in the Reds conferences, they just let their guard down and it showed the rest of us it was okay to do the same.”
The night was topped off with the Angels placing their #45 Skaggs jerseys in a circle on the mound which brought tears to many players and fans eyes as it was truly a special way to honor Skaggs.
“You know those days when things just kind of roll and things just happen the way they should happen, that’s what the night was,” said Cole with a tear in his eye. “We just want to do anything we can as a team to support his family in this tough time and to let the know that we will always be there for them.”
No matter how Taylor Cole pitches the rest of the season or how the team finishes, this will be a game that will be remembered in Angel history forever and for Taylor Cole hopefully it will be one of many special memories he will experience in an Angel uniform.