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All Aboard The Cole Train In Somerset

June 9, 2024

Bridgewater, New Jersey – The Yankees are tied for the most wins in baseball entering action on Sunday with a 45-21 mark, while their pitching staff has posted a cumulative 2.88 ERA – the top mark in all of MLB. As they say, the rich may be getting richer as

Bridgewater, New Jersey – The Yankees are tied for the most wins in baseball entering action on Sunday with a 45-21 mark, while their pitching staff has posted a cumulative 2.88 ERA – the top mark in all of MLB. As they say, the rich may be getting richer as reigning American League Cy Young award winner Gerrit Cole took another enormous step forward in making a return to the Bronx after an impressive second rehab start with Somerset on Sunday afternoon.

The six-time MLB All-Star tossed a season-high 57 pitches, 44 for strikes, over 4.2 innings of work against the Harfford Yard Goats at TD Bank Ballpark in a 4-2 Patriots victory. Cole surrendered a first inning home run to Rockies 12th-ranked prospect Ryan Ritter before allowing just one hit the rest of the way – he retired the final eight batters to step to the plate against him.

“I definitely did get stronger as the game went on,” admitted Cole. “I thought the pitch count landed in a great spot. I thought fastball was not particularly good early – I was missing in bad places and that definitely progressed to where we executed the last seven, or eight in a row.”

Cole fanned four Yard Goats on the day, including three of the final four batters he faced on the afternoon. He ended his outing with a flourish, striking out Zach Kokoska and Bladimir Restituyo on six consecutive fastballs before he exited to a roaring standing ovation from the sold out, standing room only crowd on 7,385.

“The curveball was really sharp, the change-up was really great,” explained Cole. “The slider to my eyes looked okay, but was coming off the bat hot in the middle of the field and didn’t seem like it was fooling anybody. Overall, checked a lot of the boxes.”

In two starts for Somerset this week, 15,645 fans passed through the gates to see the Yankees premier hurler toss 102 pitches (78 strikes) – he allowed just one run on four hits while striking out nine batters in his first live action since an early spring training start against Toronto back on March 1. The right-hander has been sidelined for the better part of three months with nerve inflammation in his right elbow.

The minor league schedule is structured much different than the one a major leaguer would typically be used to in terms of facing the same opponent for a full week. Going on a normal five-day turn often puts the pitcher that starts the series opener in position to also start the series finale. That was the case for Cole, who admitted that he was glad to be presented with that challenge at this stage of his rehab.

“It’s generally advantageous for the hitter in that situation to come back on five days and face someone again,” said Cole. “It doesn’t always shake out that way, but I did think that was a good variable that added a little extra challenge. I was up for it, and we did alright.”

The organization has not publicly put a cap on how many rehab outings they believe Cole will need before deeming him ready to rejoin the big-league rotation, but Yankees manager Aaron Boone has not dismissed the idea of him potentially concluding his build-up at the major league level. Cole said following Sunday’s outing that it would be “fair to say” that he would make at least a third start next week.

“I want to feel confident that if you’re in some sort of jam that we have to run 25 or 30 pitches out, that we are still in a good spot to keep going after that,” said Cole. “I think that the way everything has been going up there, the team is playing so well, I just want to make sure I come in and have a plan out there and feel like I am in a good position to play well.”

Cole added, “Certainly, I am always up for a challenge, but it is a group decision in that regard. We just take all of the information that we have and try to see when the best time is to pull the trigger on that.”

With both Somerset and Scranton hitting the road as visitors next week, the Yankees High-A Hudson Valley affiliate is scheduled to play at home against Brooklyn. When this was pointed out, Cole said it probably “wouldn’t make sense” at this point for him to go down a level. Early indications are that assuming good health, the Yankees ace may hit the road for his next outing.

After a banner week in Bridgewater, the Yankees ace made it out of two starts feeling healthy and strong. The takeaway is that the best rotation in baseball is remarkably close to adding the best pitcher in the game.

Matt Kardos | Senior Writer

Matt Kardos has covered the Yankees minor league system for over a decade and will spend his 12th season on the beat covering the Patriots for Throughout his career, Matt has contributed to, YES Network and Pinstriped Prospects. When he’s not at the ballpark, Matt enjoys traveling with his wife Kimberly, watching Jets football and collecting sports cards.