Cole itching for home opener ... his dad, too

March 11th, 2021

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Growing up in Southern California, received frequent lessons concerning the Yankees’ rich past from his father Mark, who fell in love with no-nonsense infielder Willie Randolph and the tough "Bronx Zoo" teams of the late 1970s. They cheered together as the franchise enjoyed another dynastic run in the late 1990s.

Now Cole is entering his second year as the team’s ace, challenged to make history of his own and end their World Series drought -- yet his father still hasn’t had the opportunity to see his son pitch in the pinstripes. That figures to finally change on Opening Day.

“My dad has been itching to get to Yankee Stadium to watch a game,” Cole said. “He told me, ‘If they don’t let us in for Opening Day, I’m just going to put the radio on outside the gate, sit there and listen.’ I’m like, ‘I think we can probably get you in.’”

A limited percentage of fans will be in attendance for the Yankees’ April 1 season opener, with the Bombers hosting the Blue Jays in the Bronx. That starting assignment has been issued to Cole, who tuned up on Thursday by firing three strong innings in the Yankees’ 6-1 Grapefruit League victory over the Phillies at BayCare Ballpark.

Cole scattered three hits and struck out five around a walk while tossing 38-of-50 pitches for strikes, nicked in the third inning as Scott Kingery doubled and scored on an Andrew McCutchen single. Yankees manager Aaron Boone said that it was “another good step” for Cole, who used all four of his pitches but found his slider to be inconsistent.

“It’s just making sure his stuff is resembling what it should,” Boone said. “It really comes down to him building up his workload and then you can evaluate how his balls move, if everything's doing what it should be doing, how his delivery and arm slot is. The biggest thing is getting through his workload comfortably.”

And on that front, Cole strolled out of the visiting clubhouse pleased by another date ticked off the calendar, noting that most of his pitches seemed to come out of his hand without much added effort or stress. That has generally been the tone of Cole’s breezy spring, comprised thus far by two Grapefruit League starts and one live batting practice, with a start scratched due to inclement weather.

The $324 million ace is enjoying the experience of a relatively normal spring, compared to his abbreviated first spring with the Bombers -- one that sent Cole scurrying back to his Connecticut home due to the coronavirus pandemic with the conclusion of games last March 12, then resumed for Summer Camp in July.

“Luckily I’m here for a while, so I can settle in this year,” Cole said. “Last year, a lot of the challenges were that I didn’t think we had a lot of hope as a society; we kept hearing about the second waves and all this stuff. In general, there’s more hope that restrictions will loosen, things will get better and people will get the medicine they need to stay healthy. That certainly permeates through the clubhouse; we’re human beings too.”