Yanks can't handle tough pitcher -- their own ace

July 12th, 2020

NEW YORK -- There will be a conversation between and the Yankees’ coaching staff soon, debating how to attack the remaining days leading up to Opening Day. There are no wrong answers; after striking out nine teammates on Sunday at Yankee Stadium, the ace right-hander appears ready for prime time.

In his second intrasquad outing of Summer Camp, Cole threw 84 pitches over 5 2/3 scoreless innings, scattering four hits and permitting a walk. Cole struck out four of five men through one stretch, and though he acknowledged some fatigue in the later innings, the Yanks moved only one runner into scoring position against him all afternoon.

“I still don't want to put the cart before the horse,” Cole said. “Hopefully, we can recover well this week and build off this in the next turn and be ready to go. I'm looking forward to putting my feet up, because it was hot today.”

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that Cole’s fastball appeared crisper on Sunday than in his previous outing, especially the ones that were high in the strike zone. Boone said that Cole will “probably not” pitch in one of the team’s three exhibition games prior to the July 23 opener against the Nationals in Washington.

“Right now, we're keeping him on that fifth day, so he would actually go Friday right before the exhibitions,” Boone said. “That's something that we will keep a little bit fluid and monitor, see how he bounces back [Monday] and see when we want to take the sixth day, but we'll probably use it heading into the opener. It's possible that could change.”

Catcher Gary Sánchez worked with Cole again on Sunday, and Cole said that the new batterymates seem to be building a good rapport.

“It’s been nice to work with him the last couple times,” Cole said. “I thought we were on the same page a lot today, and the few times that we weren't, we discussed it in between innings. That’s always helpful. I thought he was sharp behind the plate, giving me good targets. He called some really nice sequences. It's helpful that he knows the other squad better than I do.”

Training day
Aaron Judge spent a second consecutive afternoon in the trainer’s room on Sunday, absent from intrasquad action due to a stiff neck. Boone said that he is hopeful that Judge will be able to continue logging at-bats in the team’s next intrasquad game on Tuesday.

“He’s getting a little more work; he’s still a little stiff,” Boone said. “It’s just something that obviously we don't want to push at this point. I feel like he's been able to get a lot of work in and a lot of at-bats to this point, so we just thought it was better to not push it.”

Locked in
Playing without tens of thousands of fans will be one of the many adjustments facing big leaguers this season.

“It's interesting, because we don't know if there's going to be crowd noise in the speakers or they're going to be playing music all the time," Giancarlo Stanton said. "It's an all-new situation for us. At the end of the day, hitting, it's you and the pitcher. So if you're going to let anything get in the way of that, then you're not focused enough already.”

Stanton said that he feels good about where his timing is, and he has no doubt that he will be ready to serve as the Yanks’ designated hitter on Opening Day. Stanton has yet to play the field in an intrasquad game, as the club has taken a cautious approach because of the strained right calf he sustained in February.

“The progress back has been good,” Stanton said. “I'm good again and getting everything I need to be ready. ... I've been [taking fly balls] in BP. It's better to be in a controlled setting right now, especially while pitchers are trying to get their work in.”

Resource material
Yankees No. 25 prospect Michael King has raved about Cole’s presence so far, not only publicly but in private conversations with friends around the league. The right-hander offered a glimpse into one of those chats on Sunday, recently explaining Cole’s impact in a cross-country conversation.

“I actually just was texting one of my good buddies on the Mariners, Justin Dunn, about what Cole has taught us,” King said. “We're totally opposite pitchers; he's a fastball, top-of-the-zone-with-ride [guy]. But his slider is so electric and mine is a work in progress, so that was the main thing I talked to him about in Spring Training.”

King said that Cole advised him not to throw his slider on flat ground, reasoning that it would come from a different arm slot, a suggestion that King said has been helpful. Cole said that he came to that realization through conversations with some of his former Astros teammates and other pitchers around the league.

“I just feel like if you're really trying to hammer the shape [of the slider], it's important to have a little bit of a slope to work with,” Cole said. “It does get your hand a little bit farther out in front. It's not to say that sliders on flat ground are pointless, but I do find that that was helpful for me and a few other guys.”

Bombers bits
• Clint Frazier (plantar fasciitis of right foot) could make his Summer Camp outfield debut on Tuesday or Wednesday, Boone said.

• Masahiro Tanaka (concussion) has played catch at distances up to 100 feet and continues to increase his cardiovascular exercise, according to Boone. There has been no date set for Tanaka to return to the mound.

He said it
“You don't have 40,000 people screaming when you hit a home run. It's kind of a little eerie, but the ball sounds way better off the bat. I guess that's one good thing; it echoes louder.” -- first baseman Mike Ford, on his Summer Camp experience

Up next
The Yankees will continue their Summer Camp on Monday at Yankee Stadium. No intrasquad game is scheduled to be played. The YES Network will air coverage beginning at 1 p.m. ET.