First Call: Kris Letang wants clarity. Giants coach wants better practices. Gerrit Cole wants better results. – TribLIVE

Friday’s “First Call” starts with Penguins defenseman Kris Letang. He wants some clarity about his future. New York Giants coach Joe Judge wants his players more focused before Monday night’s game against the Steelers. And former Pirate pitcher Gerrit Cole wants to avoid home runs.

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Letang update: Trade speculation is swirling around a number of Penguins. Goalie Matt Murray, in particular.

But TSN.ca’s Darren Dreger says he’s not buying some of the speculation surrounding defenseman Kris Letang. Neither is Letang’s agent. But the three-time Stanley Cup champion wants some things cleared up.

“I’m not sure that that is legit,” Dreger said Wednesday. “I mean, it’s OK to talk about specific players outside of (Sidney) Crosby and maybe (Evgeni) Malkin in Pittsburgh. But I know Kris Letang wants something clarified. His agent Kent Hughes (is) saying that Kris does not expect to be traded. He might very well be traded, but that’s not his expectation.”

Letang is under contract for two more years in Pittsburgh at $7.5 million per season.

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Golden a go?: New York Giants wide receiver Golden Tate appears ready to play against the Steelers on Monday night.

He was limited in practice Thursday. But according to Giants Wire, media observers at practice are inclined to believe he’ll suit up.

Tate injured a hamstring in late August. Coach Joe Judge called it a “day-to-day” injury. That gave pause to some who cover the team. But now it’s believed he will play.

Meanwhile, Markus Golden missed Thursday’s practice with an “illness.” So that will be something to track. But it’s not believed to be covid-19 related.

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Joltin’ Joe: Apparently Judge was none too pleased with how his practice began Thursday.

It was apparently so distasteful to him that Judge ripped into the players and restarted the whole practice.

Running back Saquon Barkley appreciated the harsh coaching.

This isn’t the first time Judge’s “tough love” has been on display. But the Giants seem to be endorsing it.

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Cole conundrum: It hasn’t been an easy transition to the Bronx for Gerrit Cole.

After a stellar stint in Houston, the former Pirates pitcher joined the New York Yankees for $324 million this offseason. And the right-hander has had some struggles.

Cole has lost his last three decisions and has not won since Aug. 14. He’s 4-3 with a 3.63 ERA. Although his 70 strikeouts are fifth-best in Major League Baseball.

On Thursday, ESPN.com’s David Schoenfeld posted a story outlining some of Cole’s issues. The biggest one appears to be his inability to keep the ball in the yard. Cole has allowed 13 home runs this season.

Schoenfeld extrapolated those numbers.

That rate over 212⅓ innings, which is how many he pitched for Houston in 2019, translates to 53 home runs,” Schoenfeld wrote. “To put that in perspective, the only pitcher to allow 50 or more home runs in a season was Bert Blyleven, who allowed 50 for the Twins in 1986.

Yikes!

Cole’s scheduled start against the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday was rained out. He’s supposed to start one of the two games of today’s doubleheader instead.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at tbenz@triblive.com or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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