Gerrit Cole Has Arrived to Make the Yankees That Much Better

The New York Yankees managed just fine without the best pitcher in baseball, but getting him back only makes them that much better.

ST PETERSBURG, FL - JUNE 20: Gerrit Cole #45 of the New York Yankees pitches in the first inning during the game between the New York Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on June 20, 2022 in St Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Tyler Schank/Getty Images)

For the first time since September 27th, 2023, Yankees Ace and Cy Young winner Gerrit Cole took the mound. In front of the Yankees faithful, Cole was welcomed back against a divisional foe in Baltimore, going four innings and throwing 62 pitches.

Nervous, or more likely an uncontrollable amount of adrenaline, lead to a less than normal start for Cole. After a single by leadoff hitter Gunnar Henderson, Ryan O’Hearn drove in the first run with a double to left center field. Cole allowed some hard contact (109.1 mph, 105 mph, and 102.3 mph) in the first before settling in.

The second inning was a quick, six-pitch inning with a pop out, line out, and fantastic play by Anthony Volpe to retire the side in order. Without a swing and miss through two, Cole started to click in the third.

A nasty cutter sat down Jorge Mateo swinging, knuckle curve for strike three against Adley Rutschman, and a slider fooled Ryan Mountcastle for the third-straight strikeout. A little strut for Cole on his way back to the dugout told me all I needed to know. Cole was back.

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Cole returned in the fourth and added two more strikeouts to his ledger. Anthony Santadar and Colton Cowser both went down swinging, both on a fastball. Cole had officially found his grove but was cautiously pulled after surrendering a hit to begin the fifth.

While it’s only one start and four innings, Yankee fans should be excited about what they saw Wednesday night. Cole posted a 31% CSW% without any concerning red flags. No signs of laboring or frustration, but instead poise and confidence. While it was not perfect, and his velocity was down a bit, the outing went well for someone who hasn’t pitched since September.

What Does Cole’s Return Mean for the Yankees

The Yankees are in first place and their 51 wins are the most in baseball. Their rotation before the Cole addition did not have a pitcher with an ERA over 3.40. Carlos Rodon has made a strong return, Nestor Cortes has put a frustrating 2023 behind him, and Luis Gil has broken out to the tune of a 2.03 ERA across 14 starts. The rotation is looking like the best in baseball and now replaces an injured Clarke Schmidt with a Cy Young winner.

Not only are the Yankees getting back one of the best pitchers in baseball, but they are now able to manage the rotation much more comfortably. Once Clarke comes back, the team can pivot toward limiting Gil’s innings. Gil had Tommy John surgery in 2022 and has already nearly tripled his innings from 2022-2023. A move to the bullpen is not out of the question.

Although the Yankees have had sustained success, and even 100 win seasons, in recent memory, they haven’t really felt like “THE Yankees” in awhile. The team that bullies their way to the postseason and targets your favorite teams star in a trade. A true powerhouse and clear favorite. That changes now.

This Yankees team has a certain moxie to them. An elite rotation, star power, and Jasson Dominguez in their back pocket. Sure, there’s areas for improvement. The now Anthony Rizzo is swirling, Gleyber Torres underperforming, and their bench could use some help. But, doesn’t it feel different?

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New York fans are hungry for a championship. While 2009 doesn’t seem that long ago for most, it’s an eternity to Yankee fans. This season is lining up to be the year where Brian Cashman makes a move, or moves, that truly establish the Yankees as a solidified as World Series favorites.