Gerrit Cole Looks 'Sharp' As He Takes Another Step Closer to Opening Day

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LAKELAND, Fla. — As Tigers center fielder Nike Goodrum swung through a high fastball with one out in the fourth inning on Tuesday, the radar gun on the scoreboard in Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium flashed triple digits. 

It was Gerrit Cole's final pitch of the afternoon, a sizzling 100-mph heater for his fifth strikeout of the game.

In just over two weeks, Cole will be donning pinstripes at Yankee Stadium on Opening Day. While he understands he's still got some more ramping up to do, the ace feels good about where he's at this spring.

"I'm feeling good," Cole said in a Zoom call after coming out of the game on Tuesday. "Executed a lot of good pitches, [worked on] all four offerings and I'm throwing a good amount of strikes, staying within the delivery. So I'm feeling good."

Cole wasn't perfect on Tuesday, allowing two solo home runs in the second inning. Other than that, however, he was able to settle into a groove. 

"Certainly felt good enough to keep going, but at the same time, there's no rush," Cole said. "Aaron felt that was enough work and so we'll get after it next time."

Boone called Tuesday's outing another good step for the right-hander, shouting out each of Cole's four pitches. 

"Good day overall for him," Boone said. "I thought his four pitches were all probably as sharp as they've been. He hung the one slider for the home run, but otherwise, I thought he had a really good slider today. Flashed a good curveball, the life on the fastball was there of course and that changeup, which has been a good pitch for him all spring, I thought was [good] again." 

In the second, Cole struck out the side, but also surrendered the pair of solo shots. Detroit's first baseman Renato Núñez went yard to deep left on a fastball that Cole left over the plate with two strikes. Then, left fielder Jacoby Jones pounced on a slider hung over the middle, clobbering the 2-1 delivery off the batter's eye. 

Despite the homer, Cole said his slider was "improved" on Tuesday. 

"The slider wasn't where we wanted it," Cole said, referring to the hanger to Jones. "I would have liked to have executed that one better, but for the most part, we got a couple quick outs on it and we finished some guys off on it."

Cole is scheduled to pitch two more times before the calendar flips to April and the games begin to count. Even if he's still increasing his pitch count—the right-hander threw 61 pitches on Tuesday and is aiming to be ready to throw 100 on Opening Day—all the work Cole put in prior to reporting to camp is starting to pay off.

"I've been pleased with the work so far," Cole said. "When the regular season starts, it's kind of another level. You just put yourself in the best position to try to execute there. As far as all the prep up to this point, it's put me in a really good position."

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