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Cole debuts with 2 K's in dominant inning

Yanks' new ace clocked at 98 mph, 'in sync' with Sánchez
@BryanHoch
February 24, 2020

TAMPA, Fla. -- There will likely be extra adrenaline coursing through Gerrit Cole’s sturdy frame in about a month, when the ace cradles a baseball prior to his first Opening Day assignment for the Yankees. As he eyed his first Grapefruit League start in pinstriped pants, it was simply about

TAMPA, Fla. -- There will likely be extra adrenaline coursing through Gerrit Cole’s sturdy frame in about a month, when the ace cradles a baseball prior to his first Opening Day assignment for the Yankees. As he eyed his first Grapefruit League start in pinstriped pants, it was simply about accomplishing what needed to be done.

Teamed with catcher Gary Sánchez and turning in what he termed “quality work” against the top of the Pirates’ order, Cole offered his new teammates a glimpse of what they hope the next nine years will look like in Monday’s Spring Training debut. He struck out two in a dominant first inning under the lights at George M. Steinbrenner Field in what ended up as a 3-3 tie.

“I’m trying to throw strikes, trying to get the work done, trying to get familiar with players,” Cole said. “I was talking with the guys on a couple of comebackers, trying to go over who's covering. I’m just trying to keep communicating with Gary so we can hopefully read each other's minds at some point.”

Cole and Sánchez haven’t yet reached the stage of mutual clairvoyance, but the right-hander’s top-notch arsenal gives the budding battery a strong base to build upon. Touching 97-98 mph on the stadium radar gun, Cole threw 20 pitches (12 for strikes) in the scoreless, hitless frame.

“Reading each other's minds? That would be great,” Sánchez said through an interpreter. “One thing I can pinpoint is the level of intensity that he brings, going back to his bullpens. Even tonight, he was hitting 97, 98. That level of being focused and intensity and attacking, going right after guys -- it’s very unique.”

Facing hitters in different uniforms for the first time since Game 5 of the World Series, Cole induced Adam Frazier to pop out to shortstop Gleyber Torres before recording his first strikeout in a Yankees uniform, on a breaking ball in the dirt to Bryan Reynolds.

“That was a good pitch,” Cole said. “I threw him a slider there earlier in the count but didn’t get it quite underneath the bat. The second one was executed even better, so it’s good to follow a good one up with a better one.”

After getting ahead of No. 3 hitter Cole Tucker with an 0-2 count, Cole lost the batter to a walk, then recovered to strike out Josh Bell on three pitches.

“He looks pretty ready to go,” Bell said. “He's got some serious ride on his heater right now. That's pretty surprising for February. Definitely excited to see him in a couple months.”

Tucker said that falling into an 0-2 hole against Cole was “exactly how it goes in my nightmares,” expressing relief that he was able to lay off four pitches and not expand the zone.

“I've known Gerrit since I got drafted and he's always been really cool to me, so it was really weird seeing him on the other side,” Tucker said. “But 300-however-many million dollars will put you on the other side. He's a friend. Usually when you're facing someone that you know on the other side, you're digging in like, 'Is he going to tip his hat to me? Is he going to wink at me? Is he going to BS with me?' No, he gave me nothing, which was cool -- I kind of expected that. It was fun.”

Sánchez seemed to be especially awed by Cole’s four-seam fastball, which is generally rated as one of the game’s elite pitches, especially when located in the higher quadrants of the strike zone.

“It's impressive,” Sánchez said. “You're expecting a high fastball, right? But it just keeps going, kind of like it rises. If I can compare someone, maybe [Chad] Green has a fastball like that. It has that life, that rise. His just rises more.”

Left-hander Jordan Montgomery relieved Cole for the second inning. Montgomery hurled two innings without permitting a run or hit, walking one and striking out three.

“I knew he was going to bring a crowd tonight,” Montgomery said of Cole. “I was excited to pitch in front of a packed house.”

Notes: Monty's heater impresses; Judge, 'Martian' updates

The runner-up in last year’s AL Cy Young Award balloting while with the Astros, Cole signed a nine-year, $324 million contract with the Yankees in December. He will throw two innings next time out, pitching coach Matt Blake said.

“Just do your best, whatever you’ve got that day,” Cole said. “It’s in a good spot, and I wasn’t working too hard. That certainly was encouraging.”

Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.