Anyone not named Jose Trevino hasn’t had the best luck catching Gerrit Cole during the past two seasons. But with Trevino out for the rest of the year with a wrist injury that will require surgery, someone else will need to develop the chemistry necessary to get the best out of the Yankees' ace.
Ben Rortvedt assumed that role on Saturday. The 25-year-old catcher was recalled from Triple-A on Friday, which didn’t leave much time for him to prepare for Cole on Saturday.
Rortvedt credited Trevino for helping him get ready. They had strong results as Cole struck out 10 in 6 1/3 innings, allowing two runs, five hits and a walk, in a 5-2 victory over the Royals at Yankee Stadium.
Cole said it was “really fun” working with Rortvedt and added that the time they spent together in spring training helped form quicker chemistry. Cole also credited Trevino for preparing Rortvedt in a short turnaround between Triple-A and starting in the Bronx.
“Really for the most part, we were pretty seamless,” Cole said. “He called a great game and did a nice job.”
Rortvedt said he met up with Cole and the other catchers on Friday to start developing a game plan. Those meetings continued Saturday morning, and he felt ready for his first major-league start since May 26.
“Gerrit’s the ace of this team,” Rortvedt said. “He’s Gerrit Cole, so just trying to do my part as much as I can to be there for him. I told him before the game whatever he wants, whatever he needs from me, I’m there for him.”
Cole and Trevino have been dominant during the last two seasons. Cole without Trevino . . . not so much.
Cole entered Saturday with a 2.25 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP in 18 starts with Trevino this season. He allowed 11 runs (10 earned) in 11 innings for an 8.18 ERA and a 1.45 WHIP in two starts without Trevino before Saturday.
In 2022, Cole had a 5.68 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP in six starts without Trevino behind the plate. He had a 3.08 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP in the 27 starts in which they were paired together.
“I’ll be the first one to say it, injuries [stink],” Rortvedt said. “It’s a massive blow to the team. I feel horrible for Trevino, but I just really have to get on the same page as the pitching staff and I have to do the best I can to control the pitching staff.”
Kyle Higashioka and Rortvedt are in line to split the catching responsibilities. Cole and Rortvedt had one pitch clock violation on Saturday, but manager Aaron Boone said that besides a few “hiccups” near the pitch clock, he felt they worked well together.
Even though Trevino won’t play again this season, it’s clear he’ll have an important role for whoever is catching Cole. He was vital in helping Rortvedt on Saturday, and Cole doesn’t expect that to change.
“Ben coming up here and knowing he was going to get the start today, there’s a lot of boxes he has to check,” Cole said. “Pitching coach, analytics, manager, and I just feel like [Trevino] being a player and having a lot of experience catching me and kind of the flow of the season at this point did a wonderful job of prepping him.”