Gerrit Cole makes solid first rehab with 97 mph fastball, 3 1/3 scoreless innings

Yankees' star Gerrit Cole completed his first rehab game on June 4, 2024
Amanda Paula
Wednesday June 5, 2024

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Gerrit Cole, the reigning AL Cy Young recipient, advanced in his comeback bid for the New York Yankees on Tuesday, making his first minor league rehab start since being sidelined by nerve inflammation in his elbow during spring training. Taking the mound with the Yankees‘ Double-A affiliate, the Somerset Patriots, Gerrit Cole impressed with 3 1/3 scoreless innings, showcasing his trademark control with 45 pitches thrown.

Prior to the game, the Somerset Patriots attracted a significant crowd to watch Gerrit Cole, even for a brief appearance. During his outing, the Yankees ace allowed two singles, issued no walks, and struck out five batters. Notably, his fastball reached 97 mph on the stadium radar gun, as reported by The Athletic. He was initially scheduled to throw between 40 and 50 pitches.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone indicated that Gerrit Cole will need “at least a few” rehab starts before returning to the majors. Typically, rehabbing pitchers increase their pitch count by approximately 15 pitches with each outing.

Gerrit Cole’s rehab gives Yankees renewed hop

Yankees' star Gerrit Cole completed his first rehab game on June 4, 2024
Somerset Patriots

The New York Yankees set modest goals for ace Gerrit Cole’s first rehab start with the Double-A Somerset Patriots on Tuesday night. The organization wanted him to return to competitive action, respond to in-game stresses, increase his pitch count to around 45-50, and emerge from the outing healthy.

Last Thursday, Gerrit Cole’s fastball reached 95 mph during a 43-pitch bullpen session in Tampa, creating expectations that he would sit in the 93-95 mph range on Tuesday. In 2022, his four-seam fastball averaged 96.7 mph.

Gerrit Cole’s first pitch was clocked at 94 mph, within the expected range. The scoreboard displayed 96 mph, but scouts’ guns recorded speeds 1-3 mph lower throughout the game. He followed up with an 80 mph curveball, which was hit for a single.

By the end of a 10-pitch first inning, the Yankees ace had touched 95 mph three times and 96 mph twice, mixing in at least one cutter. The slight dip in velocity compared to his peak form, when he reaches 99-100 mph, was ideal for an initial rehab appearance.

The Hartford Yard Goats, the Colorado Rockies’ Eastern League affiliate, did not provide Gerrit Cole with many challenges. However, he responded characteristically to one situation in the second inning.

With two outs and the bases empty, the ace had Hartford’s Braxton Fulford in a 1-2 count. Fulford battled, fouling off fastballs, sliders, and cutters. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Gerrit Cole decided to end the confrontation, reaching back for a 96-97 mph fastball that induced a weak flyout to right field.

Throughout the outing, Gerrit Cole utilized his entire pitch repertoire. His velocity was on target, and although his slider occasionally lacked the sharpness typically seen at Yankee Stadium in mid-August, it showed clear progress. The upcoming rehab starts will focus on further refinement.

The Yankees return nears

Following his 45-pitch performance on Tuesday, Gerrit Cole is expected to throw around 60 pitches in his next start and approximately 75 pitches in the subsequent one, according to multiple outlets. Depending on his progress, he might be activated after these starts.

According to CBS, if Gerrit Cole makes three rehab starts on a regular pitching schedule, he could potentially return to the Yankees on Wednesday, June 2, during the second game of a three-game series against the Baltimore Orioles. However, this is speculative, as the Yankees have not confirmed the exact number of rehab starts required.

“It just depends. Do we want to bring him in a situation where he’s at 60, 65, 70 pitches? Do we want him to have one more (rehab start)? We’ll have a better feel for that, and certainly Gerrit will have a better feel for that as he now goes and starts pitching in games.” ” Boone said regarding Gerrit Cole’s rehab.”

Despite Gerrit Cole’s absence, the Yankees have been performing exceptionally well. As of Wednesday, they held a 43-19 record, as the best team in the league.

Gerrit Cole, 33, led the American League in several categories last season, including innings pitched (209), ERA (2.63), ERA+ (165), WHIP (0.98), and WAR (7.4), which earned him the unanimous Cy Young award in 2023. This marked his first career Cy Young win after five previous top-five finishes in the voting. The ace pitcher is currently in the fifth year of his nine-year, $324 million contract.

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