TAMPA — Two exhibition starts into what the Yankees pray will be a healthy and successful career in pinstripes, Gerrit Cole has fit the part of what the club thought he would be when the right-hander signed a nine-year deal for a whopping $324 million in December.
Weather permitting, Opening Day in Baltimore is set for March 26, and there is nobody else but Cole who will be on the Camden Yards mound for his Yankees debut.
With the mundane days of throwing only bullpens then batting practice long gone, it is not late in spring training but it’s moving toward realism for Cole — the leader of a rotation that has two openings because James Paxton is recovering from back surgery and Luis Severino will be out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
“We had a good routine today, Gary [Sanchez] and I. Before the game, getting settled in with the analytics and the whole new routine, how it is going to flow here,’’ Cole said after throwing 2 ²/₃ shutout innings against the Tigers in an 8-2 Yankees victory at Steinbrenner Field on Saturday — when he gave up two hits, struck out two and didn’t issue a walk. Of Cole’s 30 pitches, 21 were strikes. “I was more comfortable with that today. I was out there competing. It was good.’’
Spring training results, especially for veteran hurlers who use the games played under the swaying palm trees to fine-tune their pitches, aren’t true indicators. However, they are the only digits to judge a player by.
“The volume was good. I thought the command was better today. We threw the ball down when we wanted to and up when we wanted to,’’ Cole said. “Threw one good change and a couple of and a couple of soft-serve change-ups that were non-competitive, but the slider was sharp in and out of the zone and one good one we threw for a strike. The curveball was good and played with the [velocity] a little bit, and I think I commanded it.’’
Working with Sanchez for a second game, Cole was happy with the way the battery performed.
“As far as executing breaking balls for strikes and executing chase fastballs up and down, we were on the same page today,’’ Cole said. “It’s moving along nicely.’’