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Cole excited to join Verlander, Keuchel on Astros staff

Houston Astros newly acquired pitcher Gerrit Cole, center, speaks at a press conference after being introduced at Minute Maid Park Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018 in Houston. (Michael Ciaglo/Houston Chronicle via AP)

By JOSHUA KOCH

Associated Press

HOUSTON (AP) Gerrit Cole is joining a rotation filled with aces.

"I was just tremendously excited," Cole said Wednesday, four days after the Houston Astros acquired him from the Pittsburgh Pirates. "I was out with some friends having a good time for my wife's birthday weekend. So, it was a really good phone call. How you can ask for anything more than coming to the World Series champions."

Wearing a No. 45 uniform, the 27-year-old right-hander was introduced at Minute Maid Park. He was obtained for right-handed reliever Michael Feliz, right-hander Joe Musgrove, infielder Colin Moran and outfield prospect Jason Martin.

Houston ace Dallas Keuchel was joined late last season by Justin Verlander, who helped the Astros win their first championship.

"I'm certainly happy with the depth of this rotation," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "It's hard to argue the quality we can throw out there every day if we are healthy and if we continue to push forward."

Cole was 12-12 with a 4.26 ERA last year, leaving him 59-42 with a 3.50 ERA in 127 big league starts.

He will make $6.75 million in 2018, is arbitration eligible again next winter and can be a free agent after the 2019 season. The New York Yankees, who lost Game 7 of the AL Championship Series to the Astros, were thought to be interested in Cole.

"We had some chips to give up, so maybe they didn't have the depth on that side," owner Jim Crane said. "Any time we can beat the Yankees, that's good."

Keuchel won the 2015 AL Cy Young Award. Verlander earned the 2011 AL Cy Young and MVP honors.

"I'm sure he has a wealth of knowledge that he has accumulated winning Cy Youngs and World Series," Cole said. "I don't anticipate learning one or two specific things. I'm just looking forward to playing next to him. He is somebody that every right-handed power pitcher has looked up to. Just a cool opportunity to be able to work with somebody that good."

Among Astros pitchers, Cole is familiar with Charlie Morton, his former Pirates teammate.

"Charlie has been a good friend of mine ever since I came up," Cole said. "He's got nothing but wonderful things to say about the organization, the city, the fans. He has really enjoyed his time here. He's excited to play with me again, I'm excited to play with him again. Just a lot of great feelings."

Following the trade, Cole heard from Astros catcher Brian McCann.

"We talked a little bit about his career and mine and tried to get to know each other a little bit," Cole said. "He gave me a few insights on his philosophy. How he likes to work, how he likes to communicate with his starting pitchers. Other than that it was a hello and welcome to the club."

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Updated January 17, 2018

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