Cole’s signal from Yankees dugout helps Luis Gil overturn base traffic

Yankees' Luis Gil pitches and inset Gerrit Cole giving him signals from the dugout. New York. May 23, 2024.
Inna Zeyger
Friday May 24, 2024

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Yankees ace Gerrit Cole is making the most of his injury time by mentoring the team’s young arms. His teaching was on full display in the Yankees’ 5-0 win over the Mariners on Thursday as he helped Luis Gil escape the jam and defeat Seattle traffic on base.

The 32-year-old Yankees ace, sidelined since April, has been a constant presence in the dugout, offering guidance to his younger teammates with his wealth of experience from a decade in the majors and a Cy Young Award.

On Thursday against the Seattle Mariners, Cole’s mentorship appeared to pay dividends for starter Luis Gil. The 24-year-old right-hander delivered a stellar outing, allowing just one hit and two walks while striking out eight over 6 1/3 innings.

In the sixth, with two runners on and two outs, television cameras captured the Yankees ace making a gesture toward first baseman Anthony Rizzo as Luke Raley worked a 1-2 count. Though the message wasn’t audible, it seemed aimed at keeping the infielders composed.

Moments later, Luis Gil struck out Raley to escape the jam.

Luis Gil a revelation for 2024 Yankees

While the Yankees await Cole’s return, his leadership role provides an invaluable resource. With a Cy Young pedigree and a reputation for outfoxing hitters, his insights could prove critical as New York navigates a challenging stretch without its staff ace.

New York Yankees pitcher Luis Gil throws during the second inning of the baseball game against the Seattle Mariners at Yankee Stadium Thursday, May 23, 2024, in New York.
AP Photo/Seth Weni

The role of a fifth starter is often an afterthought for major league teams – keep the squad in the game, give them a chance to win, and stay healthy to avoid dipping too deep into the rotation.

It’s a back-burner priority, as teams rarely deploy more than four starters in the postseason. The Yankees themselves used just three in their 2009 title run: CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and Andy Pettitte.

But Luis Gil is shattering those modest expectations. The 24-year-old right-hander has emerged as a legitimate AL Rookie of the Year contender and a potential All-Star candidate for New York.

When ace Gerrit Cole went down with an elbow injury, outside panic about the Yankees’ rotation was palpable. Yet every starter has delivered, with Luis Gil leading the way. Apart from a spot start in a doubleheader, New York has relied on the same five arms, providing welcome stability. The rotation’s 2.85 ERA is a vast improvement from last season’s 4.44 mark.

Luis Gil has been a driving force, with a 2.68 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 47 innings. His emergence softens the blow of Cole’s absence and eases concerns about the team’s championship prospects.

What was once an area of worry has become a source of confidence for the Yankees, who are getting unexpected brilliance from their fifth starter. As they jockey for playoff position, Luis Gil’s breakout could prove invaluable.

As the New York Yankees navigate Gerrit Cole’s absence, an unlikely ace has emerged in Luis Gil, according to manager Aaron Boone.

The 24-year-old right-hander has been leading the pack, Boone said, allowing just an infield hit to J.P. Crawford while turning in 6 1/3 innings of one-hit ball against the Seattle Mariners. Aaron Judge described the performance as “a treat to watch” from his vantage point in center field, Boone noted.

“He’s got amazing talent, a great ceiling, and he’s delivering,” Boone said of Luis Gil.

The Yankees had glimpsed his ability when he made six starts in August and September 2021, Boone recalled. In those 29 1/3 innings, Luis Gil allowed 20 hits, seven fewer than he has yielded in 55 1/3 innings so far this season and halfway to his career high of 108 2/3 in 2021.

Coming off Tommy John surgery last year, Luis Gil is also in the midst of a historic stretch of pitching, Boone pointed out. After striking out 14 against the White Sox, when he referred to Cole as “his professor,” he extended the Yankees’ streak to 11 straight starts allowing two runs or fewer and pitching at least five innings.

Luis Gil’s success stems from better command of the strike zone, Boone explained. Against the Mariners, a team around league average in terms of walks, he threw 65 of 98 pitches for strikes and reached 97 mph on a strikeout to end the sixth after a pair of free passes.

Boone said that Luis Gil just kept getting better and better in his development.

As the New York Yankees navigate Gerrit Cole’s recovery from injury, the emergence of Luis Gil as a frontline starter has provided a welcome boost, according to manager Aaron Boone.

Boone explained that Luis Gil’s success allows the Yankees to avoid rushing Cole back or placing a specific timeline on his return, moving further away from the days when fans and others clamored for alternatives like Dylan Cease, Jordan Montgomery, and Blake Snell.

In the meantime, there do not appear to be any limits on Luis Gil, unlike the “Joba Rules” implemented in 2007 for Joba Chamberlain, who eventually transitioned to a relief role following mixed results as a starter, Boone noted.

Yankees' Luis Gil shouts during his pitching against the Astros at Yankee Stadium on May 8, 2024.

Luis Gil attributed his success to “being focused on what I need to do out there, going out and executing a plan of attack,” Boone relayed through a translator. the Yankees rookie acknowledged the team’s support, saying, “A combination of many different things has led me to this.”

This is a 0.59 ERA in Luis Gil’s last five starts, more than two months after he returned from the minor league side of the spring training complex in the wake of Cole’s sudden injury, Boone explained.

While Cole will head to Florida to face hitters again and likely need a few rehab starts, Boone said the Yankees will “ride the Luis Gil wave and see where it leads.” Boone added, “We’ll do what we have to do, what we think is best for the team and everyone involved. In the baseball calendar, that’s still light years away.”

Boone revealed that Luis Gil’s next chance at another dynamic outing occurs in five days on the West Coast.

Luis Gil’s dominance has provided the Yankees with valuable rotation depth as they navigate Cole’s recovery timeline. Boone emphasized the team’s commitment to handling the situation prudently, allowing Luis Gil to continue thriving without rushing Cole back prematurely.

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