State of the Yankees: Gerrit Cole’s anticipated pinstriped debut on hold

Tribune Content Agency

NEW YORK — Sensing the void in Yankees Universe, Aaron Boone was struck by an idea while visiting Gerrit Cole’s new home last week.

That’s when the Yankees manager posted a cellphone video of Cole having a backyard catch with his wife Amy – a 30-second snapshot of life in a COVID-19 world, with players and fans waiting a little longer for opening day.

Boone’s new Connecticut neighbor is also the Yankees’ most exciting addition to a club with championship aspirations, now on hold.

So, the manager has made plans to catch his new ace periodically, until the all-clear is sounded and an abbreviated second spring training is underway.

In the meantime, Cole will undoubtedly find ways to keep up constant conversations about two distinct passions — the craft of pitching and his appreciation for certain Italian red wines.


How do you put yourself in position to command a $324 million, nine-year contract in free agency?

Here’s what Cole did from 2018-19, his two seasons with the contending Houston Astros: 35-10 record, 2.68 ERA, 602 strikeouts in 412.2 innings covering 65 starts.

Cole was 20-5 in his free-agent walk year, leading the AL in ERA (2.50) and strikeouts (326) for the pennant-winning Astros and finishing second behind teammate Justin Verlander for the AL Cy Young award.

And he doesn’t turn 30 until this September.

“I truly believed, unlike some other top free agents in years past, that he would be a game-changer for us,” Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner said during Cole’s introductory press conference at Yankee Stadium.

“He wants to win world championships,” Steinbrenner said. “He puts very high expectations on himself and you can’t ask for more than that from a player.”


Spring training provided a window into Cole’s exactness when it comes to his preparation and knowing his body, mechanics and the feel for his pitches.

Cole had one rocky outing, yielding four homers on a windy afternoon at Lakeland against the Detroit Tigers.

He bounced right back in his next outing, a solid 3.1 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays.

On that day at Steinbrenner Field, Cole’s fastball twice registered 100 mph and he used his arsenal in a more “game-like” fashion.

“I think we’re moving in the right direction, just getting a little bit better every start,” Cole said on March 10, what turned out to be his last Grapefruit League outing.

He’d been due for two more appearances leading into the opening day assignment on March 26.

Now, Cole is throwing in the backyard to stay in shape.

And it’s an odd place to be for any MLB starter, creatures of habit and routine who can’t look on a calendar yet and know they’re gearing up for a certain date.

That’s especially true for Cole.



“We need to win some world championships and I believe we’re going to do that,” Steinbrenner said on the day Cole’s signing was official.

Steinbrenner emphasized championships, plural, and added his anticipation of parading through the Canyon of Heroes “sooner rather than later.”

Cole carries that last-piece-to-the-puzzle weight, as the expensive key addition to a championship-caliber club.

And there’s a daily drumbeat about the Yankees – a club with an annual mission statement about winning World Series – having been absent from the Fall Classic since 2009.

“I love it,” Cole said of shouldering a large portion of that responsibility. “It’s what you play for.”

Cole grew up as a Yankees fan in Newport Beach, Calif., so the yearly expectation of getting to the World Series “doesn’t scare me,” he said in December.

“It’s kind of what I dreamed of.”


©2020 The Record (Hackensack, N.J.)

Visit The Record (Hackensack, N.J.) at

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.