Cole gets 4th straight Opening Day nod for Yankees

March 15th, 2023

TAMPA, Fla. -- This marks ’s fourth spring as the Yankees’ ace, and manager Aaron Boone has yet to feel the need for a formal conversation outlining the assignment of an Opening Day start. Simply count backward from that date, and the club’s choice becomes evident.

As Cole continues to tune up for his March 30 matchup against the Giants, Boone confirmed the worst-kept secret in camp on Tuesday night following the Yankees’ 10-3 Grapefruit League victory over the Blue Jays at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

“That’s what I’m lined up to do,” Cole said. “We try to do things a bit more ‘one day at a time,’ I think, for a number of reasons. But that’s what the plan is.”

It will be the fourth consecutive Opening Day outing for Cole, who was 13-8 with a 3.50 ERA in 33 starts for the Yankees last season. San Francisco has named right-hander Logan Webb as its starter for the opener at Yankee Stadium.

“Good pitcher; nice guy,” Cole said of Webb. “I really like the way he pitches. Aggressive, good sinker, good dude. He’s good friends with my brother-in-law [the Giants’ Brandon Crawford]. I played some TopGolf with him. He’s tough to elevate. He’s got a hell of a sinker.”

In some order, Cole figures to be followed by , , and Nestor Cortes. The Yanks plan to slot Cortes as their fifth starter because he is about a week behind the other pitchers, having sustained a hamstring strain in early February.

Boone said that Cole figures to have two exhibition starts remaining before the beginning of the regular season. The righty received a warm ovation from a crowd of 10,266 after throwing 70 pitches (56 strikes) under the lights against Toronto on Tuesday.

“He’s throwing the ball really well,” Boone said. “I feel like he’s doing everything he wants to.”

Over 4 2/3 innings, Cole permitted three runs and six hits, though the final run scored on a Daulton Varsho double deflected by first baseman that was generously scored as a hit. Cole yielded a two-run homer to first baseman Rainer Nunez, walked none and struck out six. The right-hander owns a 2.45 ERA through 11 spring innings.

“I thought it was pretty good,” Cole said. “Hit the innings, hit the pitch count.”

Cole’s first Opening Day start as a Yankee came on July 23, 2020, as the COVID-19-shortened season began at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. Cole picked up a complete-game victory that night despite throwing only five innings in a rain-shortened contest.

He received a no-decision against the Blue Jays in the April 1, 2021, opener at Yankee Stadium after striking out eight and allowing two runs over 5 1/3 innings. Cole also accepted a no-decision last April 8 against the Red Sox, when he permitted three runs over four innings in the Bronx.

“Everything has been real sharp for him, from the start of camp,” Boone said. “The bullpens have been real purposeful. For it being March, he’s executing really well.”