Playing behind Gerrit Cole means not having much to do, so there was little fielding practice to be had on Sunday in a simulated game in which teammates mostly stood around watching him send batters back to the dugout.
But while the fielders on Cole’s side had a relatively easy workday at Yankee Stadium, the new ace himself was exhausted afterward. He threw 84 pitches in 5 2/3 innings, striking out nine and allowing four hits and one walk.
“I’m looking forward to putting my feet up, because it was hot today,” he said after finding indoor shelter from a 90-degree day in the Bronx.
Not that that is necessarily a bad thing. It is part of the process as Cole ramps up for the Yankees’ 2020 opener in Washington on July 23, now only one preseason outing away.
“I was pretty tired into the sixth, but I was able to maintain fastball command for the most part,” Cole said. “It was good to push the limit a little bit, especially being hot. It was a fun challenge.”
Still to be decided is what comes next.
The options are to have him pitch a simulated game on regular rest on Friday, then have an extra rest day before the opener, or to have him start Saturday’s exhibition game against the Mets at Citi Field.
Manager Aaron Boone said the Yankees probably will opt for the former and not have him pitch against the Mets, but he added, “We’ll keep that a little bit fluid.”
Cole declined to express a preference.
“I just haven’t put a ton of thought into it,” he said. “I was just trying to focus on today. Now I’m trying to drink some water and I’ll get to the next start in the next 24, 48 hours.”
Cole looked sharp in Florida before the COVID-19 delay and has looked sharp this month in the Bronx.
In an intrasquad game on July 7, he struck out six, walked two and allowed one hit in five innings. On Sunday, two of the four hits he allowed were a blooper and an infield hit.
“I thought he was even a little bit crisper this time out,” Boone said.
It is what the Yankees need from him this season, even if he now will play for the low, low price of $13.3 million, down from his scheduled $36 million.
All appears to be well so far. Cole said he has enjoyed working with catcher Gary Sanchez and is adjusting to his new life on and off the field.
He referred to the strangeness of everyone wearing masks and spending less time at the ballpark than usual, but he added, “Generally, though, I’ve tried to stay on the same routine, certainly physically preparing myself. But just the dynamic in here is so different.”
And on June 30, his wife, Amy, gave birth to their first child, a son named Caden.
“As far as the baby goes, I’m enjoying every minute of that,” Cole said. “I don’t see that being detrimental at all.”
Boone said that if all goes well this week, the plan is to have Cole throw more pitches in his final tuneup.
“I still don’t want to put the cart before the horse,” Cole said, “but hopefully we can recover well this week and build off this the next turn and be ready to go.”
Notes & quotes: Boone said Aaron Judge sat out Sunday because of ongoing stiffness in his neck, but he might play on Tuesday . . . The Yankees used real major league umpires, both to give the game a more authentic feel and because the umps need preseason reps, too . . . Boone said Masahiro Tanaka continues to recover well from his concussion, but there is no timetable for his return to the mound . . . Giancarlo Stanton said his “progress back has been good” from his right calf injury.