The Yankees – for the moment – appear as if they’ve avoided a third major COVID-19 outbreak.
But the most recent round of positive tests wasn’t limited to just Gerrit Cole, who was announced by Aaron Boone as positive after Monday night’s 7-1 loss to the Orioles.
Tuesday afternoon Boone said Jordan Montgomery had also tested positive, though early indications are, "as of now, [it’s] just those two," the manager said.
Boone spoke before Tuesday night’s game, which was to be started by Luis Gil, one of the club’s top pitching prospects who was promoted from the minors and would be making his big-league debut, instead of Cole.
The back-to-back positive tests put the Yankees in scramble mode when it comes to their rotation, which already has experienced its share of challenges this season.
Not only did it force the Yankees’ hand in promoting the 23-year-old Gil, 3-0 but with a 5.64 ERA in eight starts with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, a bit sooner than they would have preferred, but it leaves them without a starter for Friday’s game against the Mariners, which was Montgomery’s next scheduled turn.
Boone said Nestor Cortes Jr. will start on Thursday and that Friday "maybe" will be a bullpen game.
But, Boone added: "We’re truly day by day right now, [even] hour by hour."
Jameson Taillon, the reigning AL Pitcher of the Month for July who gets the start Wednesday night, did not try to undersell the absence of Cole and Montgomery.
"I mean, we're missing two of our best guys, guys that have just consistently gone out there and given us a great effort and guys who want to be out there more than anyone," Taillon said. "It's definitely not easy, but at the same time, there's just nothing we can do, so we have to make do. Hopefully we can put up some runs and get some zeros and contributions from guys that maybe we weren't expecting to need contributions from, but at this point they're going have to play a big part."
The Yankees, of course, have had their share of COVID issues this season.
From May 11-16, the organization announced a total of nine members of their traveling party as having tested positive, a group that included Gleyber Torres (the latter’s positive test turned out to be a false positive). The other members testing positive in May whose names were released by the Yankees were first base coach Reggie Willits, third base coach Phil Nevin and pitching coach Matt Blake.
Only two of the nine, including Nevin, experienced significant symptoms, something general manager Cashman said at the time was proof the vaccines were working.
"[I] take a lot of great comfort that that’s the purpose of the vaccine, to protect, and it appears to be doing that," Cashman said on May 13.
The Yankees, who by late April were well past the 85-percent vaccination threshold that allows teams to relax some of the league-mandated COVID-19 protocols, had a second outbreak last month, this time solely among their player pool. That outbreak caused the Yankees’ July 15 game against the Red Sox at the Stadium to be postponed. Aaron Judge, Kyle Higashioka, Jonathan Loaisiga, Gio Urshela, Nestor Cortes Jr. and Wandy Peralta were the six afflicted. None of the players experienced severe symptoms and that would appear to be the case this time around, including when it comes to Cole, who Boone said was feeling "symptoms yesterday of like a cold" but nothing worse than that.
"Obviously, it's hard news to get, but we have to do the best we can moving forward," Boone said. "And it creates an opportunity for some other people to go and make a name for themselves and do something to help us win ballgames. That’s what our focus continues to be."