Notes: Cole to start Monday, Judge plays catch

February 19th, 2020

TAMPA, Fla. -- expects that his next assignment on the mound will be to start a Grapefruit League game. The ace right-hander looks to be ready, judging by the awkward hacks he generated from his teammates in simulated action on Wednesday.

Tapped to start the Yanks’ second spring home game on Monday against the Pirates, Cole teamed with catcher Kyle Higashioka for 40 pitches on a back diamond of the George M. Steinbrenner Field complex, largely handcuffing a group that included Miguel Andújar, Gary Sánchez, Mike Tauchman, Gleyber Torres and Gio Urshela. Lefty J.A. Happ will open the Yanks' Grapefruit League home slate on Saturday against the Blue Jays.

“It was good. I had some fun,” Cole said. “I got to the volume we wanted, mixed in the breaking ball today and threw some good ones. I threw some good fastballs. I enjoyed working with Higgy and enjoyed the feedback from hitters.”

As he did following his other mound session this spring, Cole engaged his teammates in what Yankees manager Aaron Boone described as “high-level conversations” regarding pitch selection, approach and various other topics. For example, Cole said that Torres asked him “why I didn’t double up on the changeup, because he didn’t see it.”

“We were just talking about approach to right-on-right changeups and when I feel comfortable throwing it, and then he was telling me when hitters are susceptible to swinging at that,” Cole said.

Cole and Higashioka also huddled in the dugout to break down sequences, with Cole telling the catcher that he was especially pleased by the spin and location of his slider. Cole and Higashioka share some history, having played together on the Angels’ scout team as teenagers in Southern California -- on a roster that also included injured Bombers outfielder Aaron Hicks.

“He’s a true professional,” Cole said of Higashioka. “I see him having a long career in the big leagues like some other catchers we can think about, like Chris Stewart or Chris Iannetta. I see Kyle blossoming into that role.”

All rise
continued to be held out of hitting drills on Wednesday as the Yankees manage the star outfielder’s sore right shoulder conservatively. Judge played catch at an approximate distance of 90 feet and tracked pitches in the bullpen, standing in against right-hander Michael King.

“When I buzzed [Judge] on it real quick, he said, ‘Game ready,’” Boone said. “We’ll still take it easy. It sounds like [today] went well and he’ll be reintroduced to full swings in the next couple of days, I would think.”

Judge said that he began to experience soreness about two weeks ago while hitting at the club’s Minor League complex. Boone said that a precautionary MRI did not reveal any significant changes from Judge’s previous exams, though that does not necessarily mean that the image came back clean.

“He had some stuff in there even going back to when he was drafted, which, frankly, a lot of people have different things going on there,” Boone said. “It’s kind of typical of most baseball players, so there wasn’t much change from that.”

Something borrowed
Andy Pettitte’s advice on how to throw a cutter helped CC Sabathia revamp his arsenal, and the latter went on to became the 17th member of the 3,000-strikeout club last May. This year, Pettitte has been sharing his wisdom with Masahiro Tanaka through the early days of camp.

“To see him and Masa clicking, it’s a great thing,” Boone said. “When Andy’s here, he has a way of connecting with guys, especially pitchers. Anytime those conversations are going on, I encourage that and get out of the way.”

He said it
“That was a big spark in my offseason to see that. He’s obviously going to be great for us. I look forward to being behind him watching it and not having to [face him] in the box.” -- Giancarlo Stanton, on Cole joining the Yankees

Up next
The Yankees will continue to work out as a full squad on Thursday at George M. Steinbrenner Field. Admission is free, and gates will open to fans at approximately 10 a.m. ET.