Yankees scramble for Opening Day starter options as Cole’s absence looms

New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole at Tampa on Feb 24, 2024.

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While the Yankees are trying to maintain a positive outlook, the uncertainty surrounding Gerrit Cole‘s health is forcing them to face a harsh reality. Even as they hope for the best possible outcome, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that even a minor elbow injury would prevent Cole from being ready for Opening Day.

As of Tuesday, the results of Cole’s MRI have not been disclosed to the public. However, regardless of the findings, it is widely understood that there would not be sufficient time for him to be fully prepared to take the mound for the season opener against the Astros in Houston on March 28th.

With Cole’s availability in doubt, the Yankees are actively exploring options for a replacement starter. Marcus Stroman has emerged as a strong candidate, but Nestor Cortes and Carlos Rodon are also under consideration, despite lingering concerns about their recent pitching performances and injury histories. The team is carefully weighing their options to ensure they have the best possible starting rotation in place for the start of the season.

With the specter of Gerrit Cole’s elbow discomfort casting a shadow over the team, the Yankees are actively seeking solutions. Speaking before the team’s 8-1 defeat against the Blue Jays, manager Aaron Boone confirmed that discussions are ongoing regarding Cole’s situation. He expects to provide an update within the next few days.

The Yankees currently find themselves in a state of uncertainty, anxiously awaiting further information. Boone disclosed that Cole underwent additional tests on Tuesday, although the specific nature of these tests has not been revealed. The manager emphasized the importance of a comprehensive approach, ensuring that all possible avenues are explored before making a decision. This cautious strategy has now entered its second day of intense focus on Cole’s health, a period that some media outlets have dubbed “Cole Watch.”

It is worth noting that Cole himself was the one who initially raised the concern, informing the team that his recovery from recent spring training appearances was not progressing as anticipated during this critical pre-season phase. This proactive communication has allowed the Yankees to take swift action in addressing the potential issue and exploring all available options to ensure Cole’s well-being and the team’s preparedness for the upcoming season.

Cole’s absence threatens Yankees’ Opening Day tradition


Gerrit Cole’s absence looms large as the Yankees grapple with his elbow discomfort. The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner hasn’t pitched in a game situation since a three-inning, 47-pitch live batting practice session last Thursday.

Even if the MRI results are favorable, Cole will need to gradually increase his pitch count in a short timeframe. With the Yankees’ Opening Day against the Astros in Houston just over two weeks away, it presents a significant challenge.

This potential absence disrupts a Yankees tradition. Since signing his massive $324 million contract before the 2020 season, Cole has been the undisputed Opening Day starter. During his tenure, the Yankees have secured victories in three out of four Opening Day games.

Stroman emerges as frontrunner for Yankees’ Opening Day nod

Marcus Stroman, player of the new york yankees
J. Conrad Williams Jr./Newsday RM

With Gerrit Cole sidelined due to elbow discomfort, the Yankees are facing a potential change in their Opening Day tradition. Since joining the team in 2020, Cole has consistently been the starter for Game 1. Before Cole’s arrival, the last Yankees pitcher to have that honor was Masahiro Tanaka in 2019.

Marcus Stroman, known for his steady performance throughout his nine-year career, appears to be the leading candidate to fill the void created by Cole’s absence. While he may not have consistently reached elite levels, Stroman has been a dependable presence in the starting rotation.

However, Stroman’s 2023 season was not without its challenges. Despite earning an All-Star selection with the Chicago Cubs last year, he struggled with injuries in the second half of the season. During that difficult period, his ERA ballooned to a worrisome 8.63 over 24 innings pitched.

On a positive note, a healthy Stroman has shown encouraging signs during this year’s spring training. He delivered an impressive performance against the Blue Jays on Friday, throwing four scoreless innings and tossing 53 pitches. This strong outing bolsters his case for being named the opening-day starter in Cole’s absence.

Yankees options beyond Stroman

As Marcus Stroman emerges as the leading candidate to replace Gerrit Cole on Opening Day, the Yankees are also considering other options within their pitching staff.

Carlos Rodon possesses a higher potential ceiling than any other Yankees pitcher, except for Cole. He earned All-Star honors in both 2021 and 2022 but encountered difficulties during his first season with the Yankees last year.

Manager Aaron Boone acknowledged Rodon’s struggles in 2023 but expressed optimism regarding his upcoming start on Wednesday. Boone highlighted Rodon’s performance throughout the Grapefruit League, where he allowed four earned runs over 5⅔ innings. This optimism stems from Rodon’s increased commitment during the off-season and spring training, resulting in a significant improvement in his physical and mental well-being compared to the previous year.

“He needs to go out there and prove himself,” Boone stated. “Prove to the world, to the team, and himself that he’s ready for this challenge. Physically, I know he’s prepared.”

Another possibility is Nestor Cortes, although he has a recent history of injuries. His 2023 season was interrupted by rotator cuff strains, and he briefly stopped throwing again in December due to shoulder issues. However, after working closely with the Yankees’ training staff, he feels confident in his current physical condition.

Boone praised Cortes’ strong recovery from his 62-pitch outing on Saturday, suggesting that he may be ready to take on a more significant role in the rotation.

Cole grapples with uncertainty as Yankees await diagnosis


On Tuesday morning, manager Aaron Boone provided some insight into Gerrit Cole’s state of mind. When asked about Cole’s demeanor, Boone acknowledged the uncertain nature of the situation.

“He’s dealing with it,” Boone said thoughtfully. “There’s a lot of unknown right now. It’s about trying to understand exactly what’s going on with his elbow.”

This desire for clarity is shared by the entire Yankees organization. While publicly advocating for patience, there is a strong internal drive to obtain a definitive diagnosis. This will enable the team to make well-informed decisions regarding Cole’s situation and the next steps to take.

“It’s still probably going to be a couple of days before everyone weighs in on it,” Boone said. “See and hope for the best.”

What do you think? Leave your comment below.

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One thought on “Yankees scramble for Opening Day starter options as Cole’s absence looms

  1. 2 weeks to go, and no one has yet to reach 5 IP or even 60 pitches. So will they get anyone ready to be a legit MLB caliber SP by then?

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