New York Yankees pitcher Carlos Rodon throwing live during practice...

New York Yankees pitcher Carlos Rodon throwing live during practice before a spring training game against the Detroit Tigers at George M. Steinbrenner Field, Monday, Feb. 27, 2023 Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.


Gerrit Cole was still in uniform — between bites of a post-workout lunch at his locker — long after he was obligated to be at Steinbrenner Field when I approached him Sunday with a question about Carlos Rodon.

Rodon, his clubhouse neighbor, was making his Grapefruit League debut for the Yankees roughly 90 minutes down I-75, a bus trip that pitchers of his stature (and tax bracket) typically don’t sign up for.

Here’s what I wanted to know: Did Cole, now entering his fourth season as the ace of the Yankees, have any advice for the next big-contract starter coming in?

Rodon signed a six-year, $162 million deal in December, and much like Cole before him, he was recruited to be the last piece of the championship puzzle.

The pinstripes can feel awfully heavy for a Bronx newbie, especially in that dollar range, and Cole ticked off a number of things that Rodon has to be wary of, given the drain of New York’s relentless spotlight.

But Cole also suggested something that made me realize that Rodon, as well as the Yankees, are fortunate to have him at the next locker.

“I just want to make sure he’s got it as easy as possible,” Cole said.

That’s because he knows how hard it can be.

Put aside for a moment that this year is really the first “normal” spring training he’s had since signing his own nine-year, $324 million contract — from the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020 through baseball’s 99-day lockout a year ago.

Cole, for the most part, never really had a co-pilot, either. In 2020, there was Masahiro Tanaka, a seven-year Bronx veteran, but that frenetic 60-game schedule was a blur. During the past two seasons, Cole has been the frontman for a rotation that has benefited from Nestor Cortes’ breakthrough and the return of homegrown Luis Severino, but Rodon’s arrival is the first import of another pricey ace-caliber arm. And that always takes some adjustment for the new guy regardless of the All-Star resume or bank account.

“It’s different here,” Cole said. “The environment here is a little more intense, is a lot more team-oriented than other places, and it just takes more like a deep breath in the car before you come in. So I just want to make sure that he’s not getting burnt out.”

Early on, for Cole, it may have taken a few yoga-quality exhales. Within minutes of his new ace slipping on his pinstriped No. 45 at the introductory news conference, owner Hal Steinbrenner was pledging multiple titles during the length of his contract. There was the Spider Tack ruckus, the wild-card meltdown at Fenway and, of course, the occasional start when Cole doesn’t deliver $300 million worth of domination.

Through it all, Cole has never dodged the unblinking scrutiny. The way he explains it, getting acclimated to New York was a career-long process, from the near-anonymity of Pittsburgh to graduating to the October stage — alongside Justin Verlander — in Houston. Rodon has pitched in the major markets of Chicago and San Francisco, but Cole emphasized that the stress levels and demands here don’t compare.

“I remember Scott [Boras] talked to me about it,” Cole said, referring to the agent he and Rodon share. “It’s like, everybody goes to Paris to see the Eiffel Tower. But the Eiffel Tower opens at a certain time and closes at a certain time . . . otherwise it’s going to turn into trash and no one will ever clean it. The premise being that if you don’t set boundaries with other things, time is going to get away from you and your routine’s going to go by the wayside.

“So that’s really what I want to make sure he’s doing — keeping the main thing the main thing. He’s already checked the character list. He’s got enough discipline in his routine obviously to garner $162 million and a six-year commitment. There’s a lot of other pieces that are in place.”

Rodon had a bumpy debut Sunday on the road against Atlanta, getting dented for six hits and five earned runs — including a pair of homers — in two innings. None of this counts, of course, but it should help that Rodon has Cole as a sounding board.

“I’ve talked to him a little bit,” Rodon said. “[He’s] definitely a good person to talk to to put things in perspective for me, because there’s some pressure with this kind of stuff, but I kind of welcome it. But it’s good to hear from someone that’s already gone down that road.”

Cole can appreciate the journey as well. On Sunday, with the team away, he stayed late to watch the pitchers throw their live batting-practice sessions, holding up his 2 1⁄2-year-old son Caden on the dugout rail. A little later, he consulted with Triple-A righty Ryan Weber on the use of his four-seam fastball.

With a free Sunday afternoon beckoning, the vast majority of veteran starters would have been long gone by then, but Cole becomes more of a Yankee every year. And he understands the importance of helping the next guy get there, too.

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