In his first intrasquad scrimmage amid the coronavirus pandemic Tuesday, Cole threw five innings of one-hit ball, which required only 67 pitches (43 for strikes), with six strikeouts and two walks.
“I thought it was good. It was nice to get through five. We were efficient,” Cole said. “Bounced back from a couple walks well, and overall the location was pretty good.”
The right-hander, who was runner-up to former Houston Astros teammate Justin Verlander for the 2019 American League Cy Young Award after posting a 20-5 record and a career-best 2.50 ERA during the regular season, didn’t allow another hit and went on to retire the last nine batters he faced.
“Hit the load really well. Worked with [catcher] Gary [Sanchez] well. Like I said, had all four [pitches] pretty much located well tonight. Need to work on the fastball command a little bit, but good progression,” Cole said.
During the spring, after each one of Cole’s games or bullpen sessions, New York manager Aaron Boone talked extensively about the ace’s focus and enthusiastic attention to detail. Those were certainly on display Tuesday.
“Honestly, [what stands out] is his intensity. He does not take a pitch off, and I’ve talked to him about that. He wants to be game-like every time he’s on the mound,” said rookie Michael King, who pitched a couple of scoreless innings of his own. “Even in these intrasquads, first one of spring training 2.0, and he’s mad at himself for missing pitches, mad at himself for not executing. So it’s that competitiveness and intensity that he brings that I hope to do the same.”
Boone offered his impressions.
“I thought he threw the ball really well, and I thought he finished well, too,” Boone said. “That was the thing I thought was good to see: His stuff was really good from start to finish. I felt like in some ways, he even got a little bit sharper and in a good rhythm, especially with his slider later.”
There was a lighthearted moment when, after striking out Tauchman, Cole thought he could not reuse the ball he had just thrown, and upon requesting a fresh one, he gave up a home run with his next pitch.
According to the wide-ranging protocols contained in MLB’s 2020 Operations Manual, “Any baseball that is put in play and touched by multiple players shall be removed and exchanged for a new baseball. After an out, players are strongly discouraged from throwing the ball around the infield.”
“We weren’t exactly sure if we were supposed to keep it or not. So we kind of made a joke about it, and it looks like I should have kept it,” Cole said. “I think there’s obviously going to be some added preparation in terms of really knowing the rules before we get out there, and that’s kind of all of our responsibilities, so it falls under the job description of playing during a pandemic. We’ll get it done, and we’ll do it safely.”
Boone said the team has been easing into action outfielder Clint Frazier, who has been dealing with “a little foot issue the last couple of months,” according to Boone. Frazier served as the Yankees’ designated hitter for a second night in a row.
The third-year manager also said the Yankees completed their intake testing, and only pitcher Jonathan Loaisiga, who was delayed due to travel issues from his home country of Nicaragua, had not finished the process. Boone said he was hopeful that Loaisiga, who is a consideration for a possible fifth starter spot, would be able to rejoin the team on Wednesday.