Relieved Cole set for rest and rehab with ailing elbow

Yankees ace to avoid throwing for three to four weeks before ramping up

March 16th, 2024

TAMPA, Fla. -- The anxiety and tension that experienced throughout his cross-country flight lifted as he walked out of the Los Angeles offices of Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Thursday afternoon, replaced by relief that Tommy John surgery had been ruled out.

Instead, the right-hander was diagnosed with nerve inflammation and edema, instructed that he could treat his ailing right elbow with a combination of rest and rehabilitation: three to four weeks without throwing, then a ramp-up to rejoin the Yankees during the season. It felt like a win.

“It’s not a common experience for me; I haven’t really dealt with anything like this before,” Cole said on Saturday. “Anytime you’re going through something for the first time, there’s a little bit of uncertainty, but I had a lot of faith.”

ElAttrache concurred with the Yankees’ diagnosis, which was that Cole’s ulnar collateral ligament remains intact, and that he may be able to rejoin the big league rotation in late May or early June.

Cole said he will not require any platelet-rich plasma injections and will continue to work out to keep his arm in shape.

“Best-case scenario, he wouldn’t be dealing with anything, right?” said Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. “But I guess this is the second-best case.”

Since joining the Yankees, Cole has been remarkably healthy, dealing only with a left hamstring strain and a stint on the COVID-19 injured list in 2021. His last time on the injured list for a right elbow issue was in 2016, when Cole was with the Pirates.

This past Monday and Tuesday, Cole underwent an MRI exam, CT scan and X-rays in Tampa, Fla., having likened his level of fatigue following outings to what he usually would feel after throwing 100 pitches during the regular season.

“I think we’ve determined that we just got a little too hot a little too quick in the spring,” Cole said. “We progressed through the normal recovery cycle, but at a certain time we didn’t get back to the baseline which was our target. At that point, it was time to see what was going on.”

The injury will end Cole's string of four consecutive Opening Day starts. Left-hander Nestor Cortes was announced on Friday as the Yanks’ choice to start the March 28 opener against the Astros at Minute Maid Park, to be opposed by left-hander Framber Valdez.

Carlos Rodón will pitch the season’s second game on March 29 and Marcus Stroman will remain on his current schedule, slotting him for the third game on March 30, as well as the April 5 home opener against the Blue Jays. Clarke Schmidt is also in line, with a fifth starter to be determined.

“We’re solid,” Cole said. “Our guys are looking good and ready to go.”

Though Cashman said that Cole’s diagnosis has saved him a few sleepless nights, the GM said that the Yankees remain open to supplementing their rotation between now and the Trade Deadline.

“I certainly like some of our options more than others,” Cashman said. “Like anything else, you learn a lot when you’re down here. Every outing, you get more information on everybody.

“I feel good about our internal options. At the same time, it’s never stopped us from having external conversations. That was going on before this, and it’ll continue to go on until it’s pencils down in July.”