TAMPA, Fla. -- The introductory news conference at Yankee Stadium was special for Gerrit Cole, who instantly won over his new fan base when he produced the wrinkled piece of poster board that accompanied his boyhood trip to the 2001 World Series. Getting on a mound and throwing pitches while wearing Yankees pinstripes was even more memorable for the ace right-hander.
“For some reason, there's this buzz that has permeated through my life, whether I'm looking for it or not,” Cole said. “It feels really good. I appreciate the fan base. Being a Yankees fan as a kid, you know the relationship that this team has with its fans is one based on accountability, honesty and trying to win a championship every year. I'm just excited to be able to live up to every day of this.”
The 29-year-old Cole was widely viewed as the must-have prize of baseball’s offseason, agreeing to a record-breaking nine-year, $324 million contract with the Yankees during the Winter Meetings in December. Since then, Cole said that he has been “champing at the bit” to begin the next chapter of his career, having arrived in Tampa this week with his wife, Amy.
“Amy and I are just thrilled for this new adventure,” Cole said. “I remember how much fun I had meeting new teammates a couple of years ago in Spring Training, and I'm kind of doing the same thing here. You meet new people, you learn new things. It's just an exciting time in your life and you get to play baseball again which, at some point during the offseason, you start looking forward to doing that.”
Cole completed a 25-pitch bullpen session on Wednesday, tossing fastballs and changeups to catcher Gary Sánchez, then participated in fielding drills with the Yanks’ pitchers on Thursday. After his bullpen, Cole engaged about a half-dozen coaches and staff members in an animated "inside baseball" discussion about his intent with different pitches, preferences with catchers and more.
“All of us should be communicating, talking about what we're feeling, what we're reading,” Cole said. “That's just the way the game is structured. You're facing the same team three or four different days in a row, and then in a couple of weeks, so any information or any ideas you can get from your teammates helps you have more success.”
As he did following the Yankee Stadium news conference, Cole said that he was not aware of any illegal sign-stealing activities during his two seasons with the Astros from 2018-19. Cole said that he believes his ex-teammates, who claim they were not utilizing electronic devices during the '19 season, including the American League Championship Series against the Yankees.
“I addressed it previously when I first signed the contract in New York. My feelings really haven't changed much,” Cole said. “There's nobody getting a win out of this. It doesn't look very good, and I guess I'm just fortunate to be able to be here and move past it, and I guess get to experience all the great things about coming to a new team.”
Cole said that he is open to discussing the Astros' situation with his new club, but the topic has not yet surfaced.
“These are my teammates, so there will be many conversations along the way,” Cole said. “If that happens to be one of them, then I will just give them an honest answer, which is I had no idea of any of it going on. I didn't see any of it, so I certainly don't think I have much to apologize for.”
Follow the leader
Manager Aaron Boone said that he views Cole as “the anchor” of the pitching staff, and the ace plans to be the type of teammate who leads by example. Cole said that he has pre-existing relationships with J.A. Happ and James Paxton, and he is looking forward to building relationships with the rest of the team.
“Happ and I were catch-play partners in Pittsburgh, so I didn't have to be the odd man out today,” Cole said. “Two days in, everybody seems to be really welcoming. And I've gotten to know Tommy [Kahnle] pretty well too, just from hearing him a lot.”
Cole took note of Boone’s speech prior to Thursday’s workout, in which he urged players to bring energy, positive vibes and focus into the clubhouse.
“Essentially, I think he's kind of really calling on all of us to be leaders in that sense and take the opportunity to learn from your teammates,” Cole said. “I’ll just try to be myself and slide right into that dynamic.”
Just win, baby
Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner was clear when he said that the expectation is for Cole to deliver multiple World Series championships to The Bronx. Cole said that he embraces that pressure.
“I love it,” Cole said. “From a player's perspective, it really doesn't get much more simple than that, right? It's the dream to go out there every day and try to win every single time. It sounds very simple but … being around this organization, there are a lot of moving parts and there are a lot of people that pour a lot of time to simplifying that one theme -- we need to win a World Championship.”