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Hal Steinbrenner confident in Gerrit Cole in post-sticky substance crackdown

New York Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole in the

New York Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole in the dugout during a game against the Los Angeles Angels at Yankee Stadium on June 28, 2021. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Don’t count Hal Steinbrenner among those concerned about Gerrit Cole.

The Yankees ace righthander, whom Steinbrenner signed to a nine-year, $324 million contract in December 2019, has not been the same pitcher since MLB signaled its intent in early June to crack down on the use of sticky substances by pitchers.

Cole comes into Saturday’s start against the Mets at 8-4 with a 2.66 ERA, but he’s 2-2 with a 4.65 ERA in five starts since June 3. Few in the game doubt Cole’s ability to figure things out but, by any objective measure, the pitcher did not in the last month, for the most part, resemble the pitcher accumulating historic strikeout totals the first two months of the season, either.

"Gerrit Cole is a special, special guy," Steinbrenner said Thursday during a wide-ranging 25-minute Zoom news conference. "He's obviously more than a one-pitch pitcher. His courage, his strength, his toughness. I'm just not worried about that right now based on a couple of performances."

Steinbrenner did add: "Time will tell, as with any pitcher or any position player, because clearly the expectations are high."

Which, the last month aside, Cole has for the most part met.

That was not the case in his previous start last Sunday at Fenway Park against the Red Sox when Cole allowed six runs (five earned) and eight hits over five innings of a 9-2 loss.

Cole, while not dismissing the poor performance, did mention, as he did Sunday, the pitch that caused him the most damage — an 0-and-2, 100-mph fastball to Rafael Devers that caught too much of the plate and became a three-run homer that put the Yankees in a 4-0 hole in the first inning.

"Really, it comes down to the Devers pitch," Cole said Thursday. "If I live to die another day and get that ball out of the strike zone, maybe things are a bit different."

Cole, a Yankees fan growing up, is looking forward to his first Subway Series exposure with fans in the seats.

"I hope it'll be a fun atmosphere," Cole said. "It's nice that it's happening over the weekend, get the kids out to the park. Hopefully it’ll be an electric atmosphere filled with a bunch of New York fans in general. We'll put on some good ballgames and hopefully play well."

Fans will be deprived of a matchup of aces, Cole vs. Jacob deGrom, of whom the former is a huge fan.

"He’s about as good as it gets, isn't he?" Cole said. "He's fantastic with his velocity, his movement on his pitches, his location . . . It's been really fun to watch, it’s been really good for the game. It's been hard to really kind of fathom, I guess, how good he's been to a certain extent."

Yankees make deal

The Yankees acquired outfielder Tim Locastro from the Diamondbacks in exchange for Keegan Curtis, a righty pitching prospect with Double-A Somerset. The 28-year-old Locastro, though never much of a hitter in his career (he’s hit .234 with a .663 OPS in five seasons), potentially offers the Yankees more speed and athleticism from the bench. Locastro is also able to play all three outfield positions.

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