Cole happy -- but not surprised -- to see Yankees' staff thriving

April 18th, 2022

Despite an eighth-inning blip on Sunday against the Orioles, the Yankees’ pitching staff has been excellent through the first 10 games of the regular season, a fact that Gerrit Cole does not consider all that remarkable.

“I can’t say I’m super surprised, to be honest,” Cole said. “We have a lot of good guys down there with great stuff. Some guys have picked up where they left off last year, and we’ve complemented it with young guys that did their job for us really early. But certainly watching those guys pitch with their talent level, you expect good results.”

Cole alluded to the innings pitched early in the season by Clarke Schmidt, Ron Marinaccio and JP Sears, assignments that could taper off now that starting pitchers are more built up. Cole, who is set to start on Tuesday against the Tigers in Detroit, aims to touch the 100-pitch mark after throwing 85 on April 13 against the Blue Jays.

Though Cole has scuffled in the early going, allowing six runs in 9 2/3 innings (5.59 ERA), his teammates have picked him up. The Yanks’ 2.53 staff ERA ranks first in the American League (fourth in the Majors), and New York’s 2.08 bullpen ERA is second in the Majors behind only the Rockies (1.80).

“From a starting pitcher’s perspective, we want to keep going as long as we can,” Cole said. “We want to try to push our pitch count and our games as deep as we can go to keep [the relievers] as fresh as we can so they can continue to perform at their level. At the same time, from a team aspect, I think it’s important to get on the board early so that we can turn a lead over to those guys.”

Pal Joey
Some advanced metrics suggest that Joey Gallo has been unlucky through his first 35 plate appearances, with Statcast indicating the outfielder’s exit velocity (97th percentile), barrel percentage (95th percentile) and expected slugging percentage (.612) all exceed his actual production.

That said, the numbers are what they are. Gallo owns a .138/.286/.138 slash line through 10 games, still seeking his first extra-base hit, with 11 strikeouts against six walks. Manager Aaron Boone said that he is not ready to push the panic button on Gallo, who batted .199 with 38 homers and 77 RBIs in 153 games for the Rangers and Yankees last year.

“If he’s getting on base at a high level and hitting for power, then offensively, that’s success for me,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Especially when you couple that with how good a defender he is and the things he does. I just want him to get on base and hit for power, and if he’s doing that at a high level, we’re good.”

The Yankees recalled outfielder Tim Locastro from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Sunday and now plan to carry 13 position players against 15 pitchers through the end of the month. Boone said that he does not foresee Locastro -- who made an outstanding diving catch in Sunday’s game -- taking away starts from Gallo.

“I think Timmy brings a lot of value,” Boone said. “I see him up here certainly playing an important role for us, and there’s probably some starts out there for him to be had, but I don’t see it becoming that situation with Joey.”

King of the hill
Is there such a thing as being too valuable in the bullpen? Michael King might be experiencing it right now.

King has been stellar in a relief role, owning a 1.17 ERA through four appearances that included his first Major League save. King, who turns 27 in May, said that he would like to return to the rotation at some point, but he understands that his current role serves the team well.

“I love the adrenaline, I love the pressure situations,” King said. “As much as every inning is a pressure situation in the first, second and third [innings], it doesn’t seem as amplified. I do wish that I was still starting, and I’ll still try to get built up and throw all four of my pitches to make sure that if I ever get the chance again, I’ll be ready for it.”

Over his big league career, King is 0-5 with a 6.52 ERA in 10 starts, permitting an .821 OPS. Out of the bullpen, he has compiled a 3.10 ERA across 26 appearances, holding opponents to a .640 OPS.

“He certainly has an arsenal that would allow him to go back and [start] when that need arises,” Boone said. “There’s no question, he’s become a really valuable member of our bullpen. But I don’t think we necessarily have to close the book on the starting piece of it, either.”