Cole leads Yankees' rotation looking to rebound from terrible season

Thu, Feb 15, 2024
MLB News (AP)

Cole leads Yankees' rotation looking to rebound from terrible season

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Gerrit Cole was leaving the Yankees' minor league complex when fans on the sidewalk by the parking lot asked for autographs.

When the 2023 AL Cy Young Award winner reached over a bush-lined fence to grab a baseball and pen, a fan asked whether he could capture the honor again this year.

"Would be nice," Cole responded.

New York needs more than Cole to have a successful rotation. The Yankees were 82-80 last year and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Other than Cole, New York starters were 32-46 with a 5.08 ERA.

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A 33-year-old right-hander, Cole is 51-23 with a 3.08 ERA in four seasons with the Yankees after going 15-4 with a 2.63 ERA in 33 starts last year.

He has a $324 million, nine-year deal through 2028 and can opt out at the end of this season, which would force the Yankees to decide whether to add a guaranteed $36 million salary for 2029.

"There's a level of determination and a level of focus and maybe has a little bit of an edge to it," Cole said after Thursday's first workout for pitchers and catchers. "And that's because maybe 82-80 is still pretty fresh in our mind. So, hopefully we'll use it as motivation.".

New York signed Marcus Stroman to a $37 million, two-year deal to join Cole and Clarke Schmidt (9-9, 4.64) in the rotation. Carlos Rodon (3-8, 6.85 in 14 starts) and Nestor Cortes (5-2, 4.97 in 12 starts) are coming off injury-shortened seasons but appear healthy.

"Right on the surface, the top-four guys are former All Stars," Cole said "Clarke Schmidt had a career year last year and (is) looking to build on a really solid innings build up and a really solid body of work."

The 32-year-old Stroman grew up on Long Island, about 55 miles from Yankee Stadium. The reliable righty missed six weeks last season because of inflammation in his right hip and then a rib cartilage fracture, and finished with a 3.95 ERA that was his highest since 2018.

"It's an honor to wear the pinstripes," Stroman said. "It's going to get the best out of me."

After signing a $162 million, six-year contract, Rodon didn't make his Yankees debut until July 7 because of a strained forearm and back injury. He lost four of his first five starts and spent two more weeks on the injured list because of a strained left hamstring.

In his final outing, Rodon had a confrontation with Matt Blake at the mound in Kansas City as he allowed all eight batters against him to reach. Rodon turnedg his back on the pitching coach and gesturing for him to return to the dugout.

"I know I've got to be better," a slimmer Rodon said. "Let's start at it again."

Rodon and Cortes, who was sidelined by a strained left rotator cuff, are throwing to hitters.

"A lot of things have to go right," Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "Start with health. You know, you're going to have your health challenges here and there. But hopefully, for the most part, especially a lot of your core guys can go to the post regularly. I mean, that's an important factor."

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