Last year when Gerrit Cole threw his first live batting practice in a Yankees uniform, it was quite the spectacle.
Fans filled in at George M. Steinbrenner Field to get a glimpse of the $324 million ace, Cole's teammates looked on attentively and videos of Cole's appearance on the mound flooded social media as the right-hander checked off another first in pinstripes.
On Monday, as Cole toed the rubber against hitters for the first time this spring, there were no fans in the stands, no cheers as Cole emerged from the dugout. Sure, eyes gravitated toward Field 1 of the Yankees' Player Development Complex as No. 45 began to throw, but you can't compare to what went down a year ago.
That allowed Cole to focus solely on getting his work in. As manager Aaron Boone put it, the ace was "businesslike."
"Just another good step for him," Boone said. "I thought he shaped some good sliders and mixed in his changeup so he used all his pitches and I think did exactly what he needed to do today to take that next step and in his progression to get ready for the season."
With catcher Gary Sánchez behind the plate, Cole threw under 30 pitches against some of the other backstops on New York's roster. Included among those that stepped into the box against him were Yankees prospect Austin Wells and Robinson Chirinos (who played with Cole on the Houston Astros a few years ago).
Beyond the media pressed up against the chain link fence on the third-base side, only Cole's coaches and teammates looked on.
After walking Chirinos, the first batter he faced, Cole began working in the stretch. He allowed a couple ground balls over the next few hitters before walking Wells to finish the outing. Allowing his seventh pitch of the at-bat to the prospect dip below the zone, Cole groaned in frustration.
"Command is not where it's obviously going to be for Gerrit Cole," Boone said. "But I feel really good about where Gerrit's at at this point in the spring."
New York's first exhibition game of Spring Training is less than one week away. The Yankees will host the Blue Jays at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Sunday.
While Boone didn't reveal his plans for who will start that game, he did confirm that Cole will be New York's Opening Day starter.
"I think that's safe to say," he said.
- Yankees' Clarke Schmidt Has Right Elbow Strain, Won't Be Ready For Opening Day
- Corey Kluber 'Locked and Loaded' in First Live Batting Practice at Yankees Camp
- Yankees' Deivi García Is Focused on Learning As Competition For Rotation Spot Looms