Gerrit Cole Fans Nine in Second Intrasquad Start, Positions Himself For Yankees' Opener

Max Goodman

NEW YORK – Gerrit Cole is notorious for bringing the heat on the mound. On Sunday, in the right-hander's second intrasquad start of Summer Camp, the Bronx gave him a taste of his own medicine. 

"I’m looking forward to putting my feet up because it was hot today," Cole said, laughing just moments after he wrapped up his outing.

A scorching day with the sun beating down on Yankee Stadium may have made toeing the rubber a "fun challenge" for New York's ace, but it stood no chance in hindering the right-hander from dominating on the mound. 

Across 5 2/3 scoreless innings, Cole struck out his teammates nine times, surrendering four scattered base knocks while issuing one free pass. The flamethrower tossed 84 pitches, a leap forward in his workload as the Yankees tiptoe closer to Opening Day.

"I felt pretty good," Cole said. "I was kind of tired in the sixth, but I was able to maintain fastball command for the most part and it was good to push the limit a little bit especially with it being hot."

In the midst of his start, Cole punched out five hitters in a span of six. His slider was sharp, slicing out of the zone away from righties, drawing chase after chase. Factor that in with his signature high heat and Cole's stuff was simply too hot for the Bombers' to handle.

Skipper Aaron Boone was pleased with Cole's performance, emphasizing the improvements the starter made since his last time pitching live at-bats. 

"I thought he was even a little bit crisper this time out," Boone said, singling out Cole's usage of his fastball at the top of the zone, balancing his secondary pitches. "Another really good step for him to get up over 80 pitches and get through six innings, I thought he was really impressive."

On Tuesday, Cole had thrown 67 pitches over four frames. Now, with 11 days to go until the Yankees' opener, Cole is scheduled to make one more preseason appearance before the games count for real – in addition to one built in sixth day of rest.

When asked if Cole will throw in the Yankees' first exhibition game on July 18 – six days from Sunday – Boone said in all likelihood his ace would continue progressing in his five-day routine, waiting to utilize the extra rest day in the final days leading up to Opening Day.

"Right now we’re keeping him on that fifth day so he would actually go Friday right before the exhibitions," Boone explained. "But that’s something that we’ll also keep a little bit fluid and monitor and see how he bounces back tomorrow, see when we want to take that sixth day. We’ll probably use it heading into the opener."

Cole said typically he prefers to continue to push forward in his workload and pitch count, building as though he were in the latter half of Spring Training. In this circumstance, he plans to defer to his manager and pitching coach Matt Blake. 

Either way, the decision on when Cole will pitch next is poised to be made in the next 24 to 48 hours depending on his recovery on Monday. Approaching 90 pitches is a good place to be, but when you consider Cole didn't make a single start last season throwing fewer than 92 pitches, he still has room to grow.

"We’ll build from here," Boone clarified. "Chances are we’ll add to this pitch count the next time out. That would be the plan as of right now but you also have to see the outing unfold to a degree too so I think there’s a chance he could still be built up."

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