Yankees starting pitcher Gerrit Cole throwing in the top of the...

Yankees starting pitcher Gerrit Cole throwing in the top of the second inning against the Toronto Blue Jays at George M Steinbrenner Field on Friday, March 1, 2024. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

TAMPA, Fla. — The Yankees aren’t yet facing the worst-case scenario regarding Gerrit Cole’s right elbow, nor are they looking at a best-case one.

In short, there remains plenty of uncertainty when it comes to the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner.

Despite a Wednesday afternoon report in the New York Post stating Cole would be out “at least one-to-two months,” there still is no official diagnosis and, therefore, no timeline.

What is known: Initial testing did not appear to show a tear of Cole’s UCL ligament, an occurrence that certainly would have fit in the worst-case scenario category. There was some inflammation.

And Cole, who underwent an MRI on the elbow Monday morning, flew to Los Angeles on Wednesday, Aaron Boone said after the Yankees' 9-4 loss to the Red Sox, to meet with orthopedic specialist Dr. Neal ElAttrache for additional testing and evaluation. That will take place on Thursday.

“We’re still gathering information,” Boone said. “And then everyone’s [medical personnel] gotta weigh in to determine what exactly we have.”

Boone added later of any potential time Cole will miss: “We don’t have all the information yet. So until everyone weighs in, out of respect for Gerrit, I’m not going to put a timeline on anything when there’s still information to gather.”

ElAttrache, among a handful of doctors to look at the results of the first round of testing, requested Cole, a Southern California native, come for an in-person visit to further assess the ligament.

As for the one-to-two months, it is an obvious minimum.

Cole last pitched on March 7, throwing 47 pitches in a live batting practice session. It was his second time on the mound this spring. The first came March 1 against the Blue Jays when the 33-year-old threw 39 pitches.

If Cole were cleared to begin throwing again in, say, two weeks – and that would a best-case situation – he would essentially need a full spring training to be built back up for the regular season. With spring training comprising six weeks, that right there is one-to-two months.

And the possibility still very much exists it could be significantly more time than that.

Monday’s MRI came at the request of Cole, who after each of his first two outings privately talked about having issues in his “recovery.”

“He described it as his recovery before getting to his next start has been more akin to what he feels during the season when he’s making 100 pitches,” Boone said late Monday morning after announcing the news of Cole’s MRI. “When he’s throwing 45 and 55 [pitches], he usually doesn’t have the recovery issues he’s having.”

With Cole unavailable to start the season opener March 28 in Houston, that assignment is all but certain to go to Marcus Stroman, with Carlos Rodon slotted behind him. Nestor Cortes and Clarke Schmidt would follow, with the real intrigue being who occupies the No. 5 spot.

Among the candidates in camp are righties Clayton Beeter, Cody Poteet, Luis Gil, Will Warren and Luke Weaver, though the Yankees re-signed the latter with the hope of him filling Michael King’s swingman role (King was dealt to the Padres as part of the Juan Soto deal). The Yankees see Warren as having the most major-league-ready stuff but may not want to throw him into the fire of the big leagues this quickly.

Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner opening the vault for free agents Jordan Montgomery and Blake Snell remains, though not impossible, unlikely.

The Yankees had been engaged in trade talks with the White Sox for Dylan Cease, but the righthander was traded to the Padres on Wednesday night for three top prospects and righthanded reliever Steven Wilson.

“In the game we play, Gerrit’s been the cornerstone of durability,” Rodon said of Cole, who led the AL in innings last year with 209 and has surpassed 200 innings in five of his last seven seasons (he threw 73 innings in the 60-game 2020 COVID-19-shortened season). “It’s tough, whatever the news is. Hope for the best, that’s for sure.”

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