TAMPA, Fla. -- The waves of applause cascaded from the grandstands as Gerrit Cole made the hard left turn from the George M. Steinbrenner Field bullpens, making a long walk across the grass for a live batting practice session. In years past, generating adrenaline for that ho-hum task might have
TAMPA, Fla. -- The waves of applause cascaded from the grandstands as Gerrit Cole made the hard left turn from the George M. Steinbrenner Field bullpens, making a long walk across the grass for a live batting practice session. In years past, generating adrenaline for that ho-hum task might have required some effort, but the fans provided all the necessary juice that the new Yankees ace needed.
“It's the first time I got a standing ovation for my first live BP, I can tell you that,” Cole said on Sunday. “I walked out and I told [manager Aaron] Boone, 'It's probably going to come out a little bit hotter than anticipated.’ It was good. I'm not certainly complaining about a nice atmosphere.”
The flame-throwing right-hander impressed in his first turn on the Steinbrenner Field mound, grunting frequently as he fired 27 pitches to eight batters, recording five strikeouts. Working with catcher Gary Sánchez and no fielders, Cole threw only fastballs and changeups as he permitted two "hits" -- one to Kyle Higashioka -- and induced a popout.
“There was kind of a buzz with the crowd around and a lot of our guys out to see him,” Boone said. “It was fun. It’s just another peek behind the kind of the competitor, the intensity and the confidence he has when he gets on the mound and the seriousness with which he takes it. I thought his execution for Day 1 -- for any day, frankly -- was really good.”
This was Cole’s third time partnering with Sánchez, having tossed twice in the bullpen prior to Sunday’s mound session. General manager Brian Cashman was among the front-office staff on hand to observe Cole’s first pitches from the Steinbrenner Field mound, joined by teammates Luis Cessa, J.A. Happ, James Paxton and Luis Severino.
“It's always nice to have support,” Cole said. “It's nice to also get live perspective from other people at the same time. ‘What are you seeing from the side? Gary, what are you seeing with hitters, anything coming out?’ It's maybe a little early for too many questions because it was just the first day, but support feels good and then always having someone else's perspective is comforting as well.”
Boone said that he has continued to be impressed by Cole’s attention to detail and ability to break down the game, which included a lengthy post-workout chat with special assistant Nick Swisher.
“It’s his level of intensity and concentration, knowing exactly what he wants to work on, especially your secondary pitches,” Boone said. “[Cole worked on] his changeup and establishing that pitch today, getting the feedback from us and Gary about the action on pitches. He's able to process that information really well and if there's any adjustments to be made, he's really good on the fly.”
Cole said that the plan is to throw one more live batting practice early this week in order to be ready for game action, with the Yankees’ Grapefruit League opener scheduled for Saturday against the Blue Jays at Steinbrenner Field. That game is always well attended, and the excitement level will increase exponentially if -- as has been speculated -- Boone tabs Cole to toe the rubber for the televised contest.
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After spending his previous springs in relatively sleepy outposts with the Pirates in Bradenton, Fla., and the Astros in Kissimmee, Fla., Cole sounds like he is prepared to embrace that spotlight, and the even brighter ones that await in New York.
“In Pittsburgh, we were pretty good when I was coming up and I had a little bit of attention from being a high pick,” Cole said. “But that setup and then the Astros setup, obviously they're not playing in a stadium [like Steinbrenner Field]. This is the first year it definitely gave me a little extra adrenaline.”
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and Facebook.