Notable Games and Dates for Gerrit Cole's First Season With Yankees

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Rivalry games, a trip to the Field of Dreams, interleague matchups with the NL Central and so much more.

Opening Day for the New York Yankees is 100 days away on Tuesday. Sure, March 26 is three months on the horizon, but there's so much more to look forward to now that Gerrit Cole is a member of the Bronx Bombers.

Cole will officially be announced by the club on Wednesday morning. So, with his introductory press conference less than one day away, and his debut in 100 days, here's some of the moments during the 2020 regular season to look forward to...

February 12: Pitchers and Catchers Report to Spring Training

For the first time, Yankee fans can witness New York's newest ace wearing Yankees gear between the lines.

Spring Training will be crucial for Cole -- he's got a full slate of teammates to meet, the weight of huge expectations on his shoulders courtesy of his record salary, an organization to get acclimated with and most importantly, he has to get to know his catchers. 

As of Tuesday, Gary Sanchez and Kyle Higashioka are the lone backstops on the Yankees 40-man roster. After Cole's deal to head to the Bronx, there were rumblings about the club's interest in Martin Maldonado -- one of Cole's former catchers with the Astros who is presently available on the free-agent market.

Maldonado isn't the only available backstop that has worked with Cole in the past -- he is one of four free-agent catchers that have spent significant time working with Cole between Pittsburgh and Houston. Could the Yankees, prior to Spring Training, have a third catcher on the roster to help ease Cole's transition and give him a familiar face to throw to? 

With Austin Romine's departure, as the veteran signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Tigers on Thursday, Kyle Higashioka is the next man up for the backup role. The Yankees are reportedly ready for the 29-year-old to increase his role and although it's a small sample size, the potential is certainly there.

As for Cole, the only other time in his career that he had to transition to a new team over an offseason was when he was traded to Houston prior to the 2018 season. He was acquired in mid-January, so this time around he'll have more time to get in touch with his new teammates and lay the groundwork for a successful campaign in 2020.

March 26: Opening Day in Baltimore

Barring any complications with his health, or personal reasons that would keep him off the field, Cole is about as close as you can get to a lock to start on Opening Day. 

Believe it or not, despite Cole's ace-caliber performances and reputation over his seven-year career, the right-hander has only made one Opening Day start in his career. In 2017, his final season in Pittsburgh, Cole toed the rubber in an interleague matchup to open the year against the Red Sox.

Cole tossed five innings and gave up five runs -- all in his final inning of work. Pablo Sandoval and Dustin Pedroia both drove in runs before an Andrew Benintendi three-run home run. The visiting Pirates lost 5-3 that afternoon at Fenway Park.

Therefore, Cole is 0-1 in starts on Opening Day -- but check out how he fared in his debut with the Astros.

On the road against the Rangers, in the Astros' fourth game of the season, the righty flamethrower was magnificent, striking out 11 and surrendering just one run over seven frames.

Cole will face Baltimore in his Yankee debut -- in 2019, the 54-win Orioles were in the bottom half of the big leagues in practically ever offensive statistic. Further, New York is currently on a 16-game win streak against the Orioles after going 17-2 against Baltimore this past season.

April 2: Yankees Home Opener

Assuming Cole starts on Opening Day in Baltimore, he'll be scheduled to pitch again on April 1 in Tampa Bay.

If that's the case, with New York cycling through their rotation and Cole pitching every fifth day, the 29-year-old won't make his Yankee Stadium debut until April 7 -- also against the Baltimore Orioles.

Either way, Yankee Stadium can get pretty loud and just imagine the roar from the Yankee faithful when the Bombers take the field with Cole for the first time in the Bronx...

May 8 - 10: Cole's First Taste of Yankees vs. Red Sox

Cole is familiar with the history, after growing up a Yankee fan in Southern California, but in early May he'll be a part of the game's most storied rivalry for the first time. 

Further, the Yankees make their first appearance of the season on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball on May 10, so Cole will finally get a glimpse at prime-time baseball in the Bronx on the national stage.

Could we be treated to a Gerrit Cole versus Chris Sale matchup and pitcher's duel this weekend? Fingers crossed.

May 15 - 17: Cole Returns to Houston

For the first time since trudging back to the Astros' dugout from the bullpen after a loss in Game 7 of the World Series, Gerrit Cole will be in Minute Maid Park.

One week after the Yanks play Boston on Sunday Night Baseball, they'll face off with Houston in an ALCS rematch once again on ESPN.

Forget about the Cole-Sale matchup, how about Cole and Justin Verlander -- who beat out Cole for the AL Cy Young Award in 2019 -- duking it out on national television?

After spending two seasons with the Astros, Cole has made 32 starts at Minute Maid Park. In those 32 games, Cole is 20-4 and hitters have a .181 batting average against the three-time All-Star.

It'll be a treat watching Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve and the rest of Houston's high-powered lineup step into the box for the first time against their former teammate -- in a ballpark where he's clearly been quite successful.

May 29 - 31: Cole Comes Home to Southern California

Geography didn't end up playing as much of a role in the Gerrit Cole Sweepstakes after all.

The Newport Beach native returns to Southern California for a series with the Angels to cap off an eventful May for the Bronx Bombers. 

Not only will Angels fans get a first-person look at what they missed out on at the Winter Meetings, but the baseball world can tune in to watch at bats against Mike Trout -- who Cole recently surpassed as the highest paid player in baseball history on a basis of average annual value -- as well as the newest member of the Angels, Anthony Rendon.

NOTE: We could very well witness Cole representing the Yankees at the 2020 All-Star Game -- also in Southern California, as MLB's Midsummer Classic takes place at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The ASG is on July 14.

June 16 - 17: Cole's Return to Pittsburgh

For the first time since his departure two years ago, Cole will be back at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

The Pirates used their No. 1 overall selection in the 2011 MLB Draft on Cole, after he elected to play at UCLA when the Yankees drafted him in 2008. He spent the first five seasons of his career playing next to the Allegheny River, so expect some emotion and maybe a heartfelt pregame ceremony or video tribute.

July 7 - 8: Battle For The Ace of The Big Apple

Gerrit Cole. Jacob deGrom. Subway Series. 

There's an above-zero chance Cole will toe the rubber against the two-time reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom. The Yanks and Mets will face off in the Bronx on July 7 and 8 before heading over to Citi Field in Flushing for another two-game set July 28 and 29.

New York is certainly divided about which club has the better rotation in 2020, as well as the best ace. Sure, deGrom has won back-to-back Cy Young Awards, but in his last two seasons combined, he's won 21 games -- Cole won 20 in 2019 alone.

If you're of the analytics mentality that 'wins' don't matter, then think about it this way: deGrom had a better ERA in 2019 along with a higher WAR, while Cole had more strikeouts, games started and innings pitched. 

Until they settle things between the lines, you be the judge on who's the best.

August 13: If You Pay Him, He Will Come

Major League Baseball is building a brand-new ballpark feet away from the original Field of Dreams diamond in Iowa. In August, both the Yankees and Chicago White Sox -- along with fans from across the country -- will come (to play). 

This event is shaping up to be special and historic regardless, but imagine Gerrit Cole hurling under the lights in Dyersville, Iowa ... Sounds like heaven to me.

September: Down The Stretch They Come

In Cole's career, his best month is the final month of the season.

He's pitched in 35 games in September and October, more than any other month during the regular season, and had the most innings pitched (219.1), strikeouts (281) and wins (21) in that month and change as well.

In 2019, as Houston fought to finish with the best record in the American League, Cole was unstoppable. In six starts, he had double-digit strikeouts in each outing, finishing with a 10.57 strikeout-to-walk ration and held opponents to a .140 batting average. He gave up six total runs and the Astros won all six of those contests.

For the Yankees, September features two series each with Tampa, Boston and Toronto, as well as four-game sets with Baltimore and Houston. All division rivalries, in addition to another rematch of the ALCS.

New York will need Cole to be pitching at his best and pitching deep into games to conserve the bullpen for the postseason, crucial in the Yankees campaign to win the AL East for the second-consecutive season.

That's what they are paying $324 million for after all, right? 

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