TAMPA, Fla. — Three days after surgery — and two days after being released from the hospital — Aaron Boone was back in the Yankees' dugout Saturday.
The fourth-year manager, who shocked much of the baseball world Wednesday afternoon when he announced that he'd be having a pacemaker implanted later that day and would be taking an indefinite leave of absence, managed the Yankees in their 3-2 loss to the Pirates in Bradenton.
"Felt good just to be at the ballfield again, competing with the guys," Boone said afterward. "Wet day, glad we’re able to get [it] in and get guys the work they needed. Just felt really good to be back out."
Gerrit Cole, who initially was supposed to start the game against the Pirates but who instead threw a two-inning simulated game at the minor league complex late Saturday morning because of weather concerns across the state, wasn’t expecting Boone to show up to watch his outing.
But there he was.
"It’s a nice surprise," Cole said. "I thought he was going to be able to get in here tomorrow, but he got in a day early. So it's good to see him back and feeling good."
As for his 50-pitch outing Saturday morning, while not the same as real game action, Cole said he accomplished what he wanted.
"I think that the adrenaline is not the same but, at this point [of spring training], it's not that big of a change," said Cole, who threw to catcher Robinson Chirinos, with whom he had success with the Astros in 2019. "It was good working with Robbie. He brought some energy today. He was loud. Always having fun, smiling. We got 50 pitches, threw a good mix. Focused mostly on attacking hitters today, attacking the strike zone. And I thought that we got ourselves in good leverage, which kind of allowed me to be a little more aggressive on the corners in some situations, which helped me get some feel, so it was good.''
Cole, who has appeared in one exhibition game, said how he feels physically at this point of the year is what’s most significant to him.
"It's such a long season and it's so important to get out of the gate physically in a good spot," he said. "The games are important in April and we're trying to win, but there is the summer to settle into the most important games, which we play at the end of the year. With that said, whatever hitters are telling you is the truth. And so any time you can get good feedback, you're happy there. The hitters will let you know [about your stuff] based on the type of swings that they're taking. But first and foremost, you’ve got to get out of the gate healthy to be able to run the whole race, so that's probably the most important."
Jay Bruce, competing for a reserve spot, homered in his first at-bat Saturday, continuing his hot start. Bruce, brought in on a minor-league deal just before camp, is 4-for-6 with a double and a homer. The Yankees are looking at him as a backup in the outfield as well as at first base.
"I know that I'm good enough to be on the roster. There's no question personally about that, in my opinion," said Bruce, 33. "It goes back to health and, also, a lot of times, it depends on how they want to shape the roster."
Clint Frazier, named the starter in leftfield before camp, hit his first homer, a bomb into the parking lot in left.