Gerrit Cole turns Gil’s mentor as he progresses to another rehab milestone

Yankees' ace Gerrit Cole is teaching pitcher Luis Gil at Tropicana Field on May 10, 2024.

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Yankees ace Gerrit Cole is scheduled to have his third bullpen season today. Meanwhile, he is making the most of his injury period and playing a vital role in helping Luis Gil further his recent success.

As the Rays took batting practice on Friday, rehabbing 2023 American League Cy Young winner made his way out to the Yankees bullpen, situated in foul territory near the left-field foul line at Tropicana Field. Wearing a glove on his left hand but without a baseball in either, Gerrit Cole positioned himself to the left of the two mounds and mimicked throwing a bullpen session with a full windup several times. The right-hander even simulated the catcher returning an imaginary baseball to him.

But Gerrit Cole’s purpose for being there wasn’t to throw, but to teach Luis Gil, his temporary replacement in the rotation, the nuances of ace pitching.

Gerrit Cole is involved in sharpening the Yankees’ rotation

As Gerrit Cole progresses through his rehabilitation, he continues to serve as a mentor to young pitchers, a role he has consistently embraced. During Gil’s bullpen session on Friday, Yankees pitching coach Blake observed from behind the mound, while the team’s ace positioned himself to the side. Between pitches, Gerrit Cole offered several tips to his teammate.

Following the completion of Gil’s throwing session, Gerrit Cole dedicated a few minutes to assisting him with his delivery. The ace pitcher demonstrated mock windups, pausing to explain his techniques while placing his hands on Gil’s shoulders. To ensure that Gil fully grasped the concepts, Spanish interpreter Marlon Abreu reiterated Gerrit Cole’s instructions.

Blake noted that Gerrit Cole was closely analyzing Gil’s delivery and providing insights on how to enhance the effectiveness of his secondary pitches while maintaining their competitiveness. They also discussed aspects related to delivery, with the Yankees ace offering immediate feedback to Luis, which proved to be highly beneficial.

“Gerrit was looking at Luis’ delivery and how to use the secondary pitches and keep the secondary pitches competitive,” Blake said. “There was something related to delivery that we’ve talked about a little bit, too, so Gerrit was just giving Luis feedback in the moment, which is helpful.”

Although Gerrit Cole has clarified that he does not intend to assume the role of a pitching coach or infringe upon Blake’s responsibilities, he genuinely enjoys contributing to the development of his fellow pitchers. The pitching coach wholeheartedly supports the ace’s involvement.

Blake emphasized the abundant opportunities for Gil to gain valuable insights from Gerrit Cole. He highlighted the potential for a player-to-player dynamic in which Gil can identify and incorporate effective elements of Gerrit Cole’s approach into his own skill set.

Blake stressed that Gerrit Cole closely monitors various aspects of Gil’s development and actively engages in discussions with the coaching staff. He noted that the Yankees ace remains well-informed about the specific areas of focus in Gil’s progression and ensures that his feedback aligns with the ongoing conversations between the coaches and the young pitcher.

“Gerrit’s obviously paying attention to a lot and asks a lot of questions to us, so he knows what the conversation is with Luis and what the touch points are,” he said. “So he’s not going on there without a plan of what we’re focusing on and he does a good job of following up on any conversations he’s had with guys.”

Manager Aaron Boone echoes Blake’s sentiments regarding Gerrit Cole’s mentorship. He acknowledged the ace’s alignment and open communication with Blake and the pitching staff, highlighting their collaborative efforts in identifying areas for improvement. He also commended Gerrit Cole’s willingness to share his knowledge and expertise with the team. According to the skipper, one of Gerrit Cole’s most valuable qualities is his ability to impart his wisdom and experience to his teammates, ultimately benefiting everyone involved.

“Gerrit is in lockstep and on the same page and obviously very communicative with Matt Blake and the pitching group,” Boone said. “They’re always talking shop and finding little areas where we can be better. And he obviously loves to share his experience and his expertise with everyone. So I think it’s one of the valuable parts of Gerrit that we all get the benefit from, his knowledge and expertise and his ability to teach it.”

When Gerrit Cole will return

Although Gerrit Cole has recovered from the right elbow inflammation that forced him to cease throwing in mid-March, he is still not close to making his season debut. He only recently resumed throwing bullpen sessions last week after receiving clearance to return to the mound. The next steps in his progression will involve throwing to hitters in live batting practice sessions, followed by pitching in rehabilitation games.

The question remains: how many rehab games will be necessary?

Blake indicated that preliminary discussions regarding the outline of the plan have taken place. But the Yankees have not finalized any plans, as they want to ensure that Gerrit Cole continues throwing without experiencing any discomfort before seriously considering a return strategy. Two potential options are on the table:

The Yankees could choose to gradually increase Gerrit Cole’s pitch count through minor-league games, enabling him to pitch five or six innings immediately upon his return from the injured list. Alternatively, they could prepare him for three or four innings and have him work in tandem with Gil for a couple of starts.

Blake acknowledged that there is currently no clear understanding of the extent to which Gerrit Cole needs to build up his pitch count before returning. He stressed the importance of not skipping any steps, drawing upon past experiences where rushing some players back may have had adverse effects.

The Yankees pitching coach emphasized the necessity of being thorough in the steps taken to facilitate Gerrit Cole’s return. With the rotation performing well thus far, there is optimism that there won’t be a need to rush him back. However, they want to ensure that he is fully prepared when he does make his return to the mound.

Gerrit Cole’s teaching role will persist even after he returns from the injured list, which is anticipated to occur in late June or early-to-mid July. However, before his return, the Yankees ace must complete additional bullpen sessions, live batting practice, and rehabilitation starts.

Blake indicated that Gerrit Cole is likely still a few weeks away from rejoining the team, noting that there are more bullpen sessions scheduled to ensure he continues progressing in the right direction. Nevertheless, he acknowledged that the ace is getting closer to making his return.

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