PITTSBURGH – Gerrit Cole didn’t try to hide it.
As of a couple of weeks ago the ace righthander was in line to start one of the two games here against the Pirates, the team that drafted and developed him.
But a rainout and the ensuing manipulation of the rotation eventually required Cole to pitch the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader in Cleveland, hence denying the 31-year-old the chance to pitch in PNC Park, the place he made his big-league debut in 2013 as a 22-year-old.
“I had it circled,” Cole said in the Yankees’ dugout before Tuesday night’s game. “But hopefully with the schedule change (when every team plays every other team at least once), in the next few years I’ll have another opportunity coming up soon to pitch here. It would just be special.”
Cole was taken first overall in the 2011 draft by the Pirates and made his debut June 11, 2013 against the defending champion Giants at PNC Park.
Cole, in a retrospective mood, easily recalled the details of that night, which included him not only earning the win in the Pirates' 8-2 victory but also driving in two runs with his first big-league hit (a single to center off Giants rotation stalwart Tim Lincecum).
“The crowd,” Cole said of what he remembered most of the night. “It was the first night they did this wanding thing [at security] and everyone was coming in late and a little hot, a little edgy,” Cole said with a smile. “My family was on edge, my brother-in-law (Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford, who went 1-for-4) was hunting for a base hit. I mean, wow, just a shot of adrenaline right after the first strikeout.”
That came with the first batter of the game, Gregor Blanco, whom Cole struck out on three pitches. It was one of the two strikeouts on the night for the pitcher, who nonetheless went on to allow just two runs in scattering seven hits over 6 1/3 innings.
“[Another] shot of adrenaline in the seventh coming off the mound,” Cole said. “Hard to control the emotions after getting that first hit. It was rocking and we had a great rest of the summer, culminating in the wild-card game, which I’ll never forget. But certainly the crowd coming in a little late and just building this adrenaline.”
Cole continued: “First at-bat, first strikeout, the crowd was not fully in, and then it started getting louder and louder and louder until…the base hit was loud, the standing ovation (coming off the mound) was loud, and then we won the game and it was just pretty sweet. A pretty sweet day.”
Cole was part of a Pirates team that qualified for the NL Division Series in 2013 – after beating the Reds in the wild-card game – and the wild-card game in 2014 and ’15. Both of those games ended up being losses, with Cole taking the loss in 2015 after allowing four runs and six hits over five innings of the 4-0 defeat.
Asked if he could have “a mulligan” on anything from his time with the Pirates – which ended after the 2017 season when he was dealt to the Astros – he mentioned a pitch he threw to the Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber from that wild-card loss.
“I would probably take that slider back to Schwarber to be honest,” Cole said of a 2-and-1 pitch in the top of the third that the Cub hit out for a two-run homer that made it 3-0. “That was kind of a dagger for us. That pitch was tough, and that game was tough.”
Still, like CC Sabathia when he would reminisce about his time in Cleveland –where he came up as a big-leaguer in 2001 as a 20-year-old – the memories for Cole from his time here are overwhelmingly positive.
“I left it all out there every time I played, and I know my teammates did, too,” Cole said. “I think that’s why we have the special relationship we still do where we all kind of keep in touch. It’s kind of unique.”