Cole, Nova mentor young staff in different ways

Sign up for one of our email newsletters.Updated 2 hours ago BRADENTON, Fla. — As the senior members of the Pirates' starting rotation, Ivan Nova and Gerrit Cole know they have a duty to mentor the younger pitchers. It's a role they embrace, although...

Cole, Nova mentor young staff in different ways

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Updated 2 hours ago

BRADENTON, Fla. — As the senior members of the Pirates' starting rotation, Ivan Nova and Gerrit Cole know they have a duty to mentor the younger pitchers. It's a role they embrace, although they go about it in varying ways.

“They just have different mindsets,” left-hander Steven Brault said. “Nova is a little more relaxed, while Gerrit is a little more fiery. That's just how it is. It's cool having those two different viewpoints on it.”

Cole prefers a hands-on approach. It's not unusual for him to pull a teammate aside in the dugout during a game and offer immediate advice.

“It's a really exciting opportunity,” Cole said. “We have a lot of good guys here who I'm looking forward to working with. They're real competitors. They have high aptitude.”

Toward the end of last season, Cole and Nova looked on as Brault threw bullpen session and noticed the lefty was overthrowing.

“They both stressed that it's better when I'm not trying to be something that I'm not,” Brault said. “For me, being something that I'm not means trying to throw really hard. Having them both give me that ‘Be yourself. Work in the strike zone' message really resonated. You hear it from coaches, and that's great. But hearing it from fellow players, especially guys who've been around for a while, is nice.”

Cole delivered his message practically as soon as Brault finished throwing his bullpen. Nova did it later, much more casually, in the clubhouse.

“I just want to be a friendly guy, somebody everybody can talk to,” Nova said. “I've seen some mean guys who nobody wants to talk to. I don't want to be that person in the clubhouse.”

When Nova was traded to the Pirates last August, he was given the locker next to Chad Kuhl's. It was a perfect setup for Kuhl, who wanted guidance as he navigated his rookie season.

“It was nice to sit down and talk with Ivan about the things he's been through,” Kuhl said. “He's super cool. Everything he does is super smooth, super relaxed. Maybe some of that comes from him having played in New York. Nothing ever flusters him.”

Like star-struck fans, newbies sometimes hesitate to approach veterans for advice. However, Nova's easy-going manner makes him approachable.

Nova admitted he was a bit intimidated during his first spring training camp with the San Diego Padres in 2009. He got over it a year later, after he joined the New York Yankees.

“When I was with New York, I got used to that superstar thing really quickly,” Nova said. “Out of 25 guys, we had 20 superstars.”

In Yankees camp, Nova often saw many of his teammates clustered around Marino Rivera and Derek Jeter.

“There'd be 20 guys around Mariano and Jeter, asking questions,” Nova said. “I was like, ‘I don't want to be in their shoes right now.' I wanted to have (that leader role), but I thought, ‘If it comes, it comes.' ”

Nova tagged along with Andy Pettite and CC Sabathia, picking up pointers.

“When you have a player like that, you take his example,” Nova said. “When you play 15 or 20 years, you must be doing something right all the time. I was always trying to learn from them. I learned from how they prepared and how they went out there. I think that's why I (lasted) almost seven years in New York.”

Not long after he joined the Pirates, Nova was walking to the bullpen for a side session and noticed a lot of other pitchers going the same direction.

“I thought they were going to work out, but they went to watch me throw a bullpen,” Nova said. “They wanted to learn. Stuff like that makes you really happy.”

Notes: Reliever Tony Watson was excused from spring training camp Wednesday to attend his salary arbitration hearing. Watson filed for $6 million, and the Pirates offered $5.6 million. … The only pitcher who did not throw a bullpen session over the first two days of camp is lefty reliever Jason Stoffel. Athletic trainer Todd Tomczyk said he is not aware of any medical issues with Stoffel. … Tomczyk said Josh Bell is “closer than you think” to being cleared to take live swings in the cage. Bell is recovering from minor knee surgery.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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