Gerrit Cole's Season Debut: Sharpening Skills Amid Rust

Gerrit Cole's Season Debut: Sharpening Skills Amid Rust

NEW YORK -- The New York Yankees' ace Gerrit Cole made his eagerly anticipated season debut in a divisional showdown against the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday.

As expected, his performance was sharp yet exhibited a hint of rust and was notably brief.

Earlier in the season, the reigning Cy Young Award winner was diagnosed with nerve irritation and edema in his right elbow, leading to his delayed start.

In his first appearance back, Cole was meticulously monitored, being limited to just over four innings.

During his outing, he allowed two runs on three hits at Yankee Stadium.

Despite the extended period away from the mound, the 34-year-old right-hander showcased his prowess, compiling five strikeouts, issuing only one walk, and throwing a total of 62 pitches.

His fastball touched 97 mph, inducing six swing-and-misses.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone refrained from disclosing specifics regarding Cole's pitch limit before the game, aiming to maintain a competitive edge against the Orioles.

It was evident that Cole would not enjoy his usual extensive pitch count.

He had only been permitted to throw 68 pitches over 4⅓ innings in his third and final rehab start on Friday.

A Rocky Start

The Orioles managed to inflict most of their damage against Cole in the first inning.

Gunnar Henderson led off with a one-hopper that bounced off second baseman Gleyber Torres' glove, resulting in a double.

Two batters later, Ryan O'Hearn slashed a slider for a two-out, RBI ground-rule double on an 0-2 count.

Cole quickly regrouped, demonstrating his resilience.

In the second inning, he needed just seven pitches to retire the side.

He issued a one-out walk to Henderson in the third.

Henderson stole second base on the next pitch but was stranded as Cole recorded his first three strikeouts of the season in that inning.

Finding His Rhythm

By the fourth inning, Cole began to find his rhythm, retiring the side in order and showcasing two strikeouts on 16 pitches.

Back on the mound for the fifth inning, Cole eventually surrendered a first-pitch single to Cedric Mullins.

Subsequently, Cole made way for reliever Ron Marinaccio.

Marinaccio yielded a two-run home run to Ramon Urias, accounting for the second run charged to Cole.

Although not flawless, Cole's performance demonstrated his capability to return to form.

Looking Ahead

As the Yankees continue their season, Cole's return adds a significant boost to the team.

His performance on Wednesday showcased glimpses of his elite form, focusing on gradually building his pitch count and ensuring a cautious progression in his outings.

The Yankees' decision to take a conservative approach with Cole underscores their commitment to preserving his long-term health and effectiveness.

Cole's resilience and ability to adapt will be crucial as the Yankees navigate through the season.

His performance against the Orioles serves as a promising indication of what lies ahead for both Cole and the team.

"We'll build him conservatively here to get him built up," Boone said. "And, frankly, with all our guys, we'll kind of see where they're at and what we feel like makes the most sense."

"I don't necessarily think it'll be extra moving forward. It'll just be about conservatively getting [the pitches] up. But, then again, listening to each start, too, to see where he is."

Cole’s measured return marks the first step in what the Yankees hope will be a dominant season from their ace. His ability to shake off the rust and find his rhythm bodes well for the future, promising exciting times ahead for the team and their fans.