Yankees starting pitcher Gerrit Cole gives up a two-run homer to...

Yankees starting pitcher Gerrit Cole gives up a two-run homer to Daniel Vogelbach of the Blue Jays in the top of the first inning at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., on Friday. Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

TAMPA, Fla. — Nestor Cortes, like pretty much every other pitcher in the Yankees’ clubhouse, marvels at Gerrit Cole.

But for the lefthander, it’s this first and foremost:

“Personally, I think he’s so respected in this clubhouse and probably everywhere he goes because of how much money he’s making and he’s grinding every single day like he’s trying to get that contract,” Cortes said. “That’s what I respect most about him.”

Not much was a grind for Cole in 2023, at least based on his final numbers. The righthander went 15-4 with a 2.63 ERA, making an MLB-high 33 starts and throwing an American League-high 209 innings, in capturing the AL Cy Young Award.

Cole’s first start of spring training on Friday night against the Blue Jays certainly fit “grind” mode, though.

After retiring the first two batters he faced, Cole allowed three straight hits, including a two-run homer by former Met Daniel Vogelbach and a triple by Ernie Clement. He gave up three runs and four hits in two innings in the Yankees’ 8-4 victory at Steinbrenner Field.

Cole said he would not “forget’’ Vogelbach’s celebration of a spring training home run, which seemed excessive, but he said it with a smile, and he overall was pleased with his command.

“For the most part, we were in a three- or four-inch window on the glove side repeated,’’ he said. “All the sliders were really good; one kind of came in on a righthander but it surprised him. Everything else was really well located. The curveball we went 2-for-2, the changeup 2-for-3, two good cutters. I’m executing the way I want to execute.”

The game featured two home runs by a very resurgent-looking Anthony Rizzo, including a grand slam in a six-run second inning, and two hits by Juan Soto, including his second exhibition homer and a double. Everson Pereira also homered.

Cole, who was removed after 22 pitches in the first inning but, thanks to spring training rules, was able to reenter in the second, struck out one and did not walk a batter. Aaron Boone removed him for good with one out in the third, and Alex Bustamante allowed an inherited runner to score to finish off Cole’s line.

Cole, whose fastball velocity sat at 95 to 96 mph, threw 39 pitches, 26 of them strikes.

“Just a veteran pitcher getting his work in,” one AL scout said. “He dialed it up after the home run. Looked fine.”

Results in spring training don’t matter for players of Cole’s stature. He’s had rough outings in spring training before, including an afternoon in Lakeland against the Tigers on March 5, 2020, in which he allowed four home runs in two innings.

That doesn’t mean Cole, who had a 3.32 ERA and allowed two home runs in five exhibition starts last year, entered Friday without a plan.

Far from it, Boone said before the game.

“He understands what this is,” he said. “He’s looking at it as that process toward building toward Opening Day. There may be an outing or a side or a live [batting practice session] where he’s working on a particular thing. I think it’s all just part of the building process, getting that number [pitch count] up there and keep stacking. He’ll throttle back when he has to, step on it when he has to, does a really good job of kind of governing himself of what he needs to do to get ready.”

It’s a process, Boone said many times last season, that never truly ends for a pitcher who is constantly chasing perfection.

“It’s part of his greatness, knowing how to get ready,” Boone said. “I talked to you guys all the time [in 2023] about 365 days a year, he’s so good at it. He’s so good at the art of pitching and how to recover and how to back off, how to pitch through stuff. He has a very good understanding of himself and what he needs to do to be ready.”

More Yankees headlines

Newsday LogoSUBSCRIBEUnlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months
ACT NOWSALE ENDS SOON | CANCEL ANYTIME